My guess is that if you’re like most people you don’t pay much attention to how often you cough or clear your throat when you’re sick. But as a broadcaster or voice artist you should pay extra attention to that because you may be harming the part of your body you must have working well to be able to do your job: your voice. What you may not realize is that each cough creates enormous pressure in your throat and can cause significant damage. Let me explain….
The vocal fold (cords) are really very small folds of muscle and ligament that protrude out into the throat. If you’re not squeamish, take a look at vocal folds at work by clicking Vocal Folds They work as a valving system with the primary purpose of keeping foreign matter out of our lungs. (The fact that they allow us to talk is secondary.) You know how it feels when something “goes down the wrong way.” That’s when the vocal folds do their work to protect the lungs. They close off the tube to the lungs and make us cough up whatever was on the wrong path.
Coughing can serve a life-saving function, but it takes a toll on our vocal folds in the process. The air of a cough passes through our throat at over 100 m.p.h. Imagine the damage a 100 m.p.h. wind does to a tree. Now think of the small vocal folds with that strong blast of air coming through them several times an hour. Throat clearing is just as harmful.
So think about your throat next time you are coughing. Try to use throat lozenges and warm drinks to soothe your throat and prevent coughing. Your voice and your throat will benefit.
Read much more about how to combat a cold in my recent post, “Don’t Get Sick as a Dog This Winter.”
Want to know more about taking care of your voice? Ck out the new, fifth edition of BROADCAST VOICE HANDBOOK. You’ll learn about vocal health and lots more!