Super Bowl party? Use “Henny Youngman” vocal care.
Jan 29 2016
With the Super Bowl coming up, it’s possible you’ll be in a loud sports bar or big party where you literally have to shout for hours just to be heard. No doubt you’ve already heard warnings not to abuse your professional instrument. (Some people think referring to your voice as your “instrument” is pedantic and pompous, but your voice is as versatile as any instrument, and more irreplaceable than a Stradivarius, so as a professional voice artist, that’s how you should treat it!)
But do you take those warnings to heart? If not, here’s why you should.
NOTE: This is not advice from a medical professional. We can give you typical guidelines, but not a personal diagnosis. If you have any concern or question regarding the state of your vocal health, please consult your personal physician or an ENT professional promptly.
Some people can shout and talk all day without getting hoarse. Others can’t. Even trained, in-condition voiceover professionals can virtually lose their voice after a long period of intense voice work – for example, as we noted in our article on political commercials (https://www.edgestudio.com/blogs/election-over-long-live-election), the men and women who specialize in that genre can become almost speechless by election day.
It might be that you actually like the effect of having had to shout all evening. Wow, the next day you sound like Sam Elliott or Trace Adkins, right? But what good does that do you? You can’t audition or make a cut for your demo, because 36 hours later or so, you won’t be able to reproduce it. (Although regular daily vocal exercise, and perhaps guidance from a voice teacher, will help you come very close.) And odds are you don’t happen to have a one-off job that next day where a very low voice is called for.
Odds are, it won’t matter much in the long run.
But sooner or later, the odds may catch up to you. Abusing your voice, or ignoring damage when it happens, could do your voice significant harm.
Being hoarse from laryngitis may sound and feel similar to hoarseness from a hemorrhage. If you experience a sudden change in your voice or loss of your vocal range, consult an ENT professional. In a worst-case scenario, shouting or coughing (as might illness, sneezing, any forceful vocalization) could have caused a vocal fold hemorrhage. And if you were to ignore it and “play through the pain,” it could lead to the formation of a vocal cord polyp, and further complications. From what we understand, this can all happen rather quickly, particularly if you are a singer and use your voice more forcefully than in a typical voiceover recording situation. Singing with a hemorrhage requires even more vocal force than singing when healthy. But the early stage of polyp formation can occur in just a day of speaking normally if a hemorrhage is present.
We also suggest you do not take steroids unless prescribed by a medical professional who has actually examined your throat.
There are more than two dozen conditions that can cause hoarseness, many of them being serious illnesses or requiring urgent care. But treatment for ordinary Chronic Laryngitis (as caused by overuse or a cold) is usually rest (of the voice) and hydration. If your throat has been hoarse for more than 10 days (some sources say even just a few), see your doctor. But if you must use your voice, as professionals do, don’t wait.
And in case we’ve seemed over-alarming, bear in mind that the vocal structure, like so much of the body, tends to become weaker with age. A life of excessive shouting doesn’t help in that regard. (And while we’re at it, this is winter: don’t try to shout in very cold weather.)
The best cure is prevention, which is how Henny Youngman got into our headline. It’s like his old one-liner:
“Doctor, it hurts when I do this.” The doctor said, “Don’t do that.”