13

Scientific American spoke with Rebecca N. Gaughan, an ear, nose and throat (ENT) doctor in private practice in Olathe, Kan., to learn the answer.

According to both Dr. Gaughan and my mother, whispering is a good way to worsen a sore throat.

SA: So it's bad to whisper if you have laryngitis?

RG: Whispering is one of the worst things you can do because it's like yelling. It strains, or pulls, on the vocal chords. Instead you want to try to take a deep breath and then exhale as you talk. Try to relax your voice and not strain it.


An uncited commentator claims this to be incorrect but with a caveat of sorts:

"Whispering INCORRECTLY is one of the worst things you can do. But whispering PROPERLY is fine."


Great.

So has there been any conclusive research here? The best I can find is "sometimes".

Although whispering involves more severe hyperfunction in most patients, it does not seem to do so in all patients. In some patients, it may be less traumatic than normal voice.

  • Is there a harmful way to whisper?
  • Is whispering ever ok?
  • Can it really make a sore throat worse?
12

According to Laryngeal Hyperfunction During Whispering: Reality or Myth?, sometimes:

Although whispering involves more severe hyperfunction in most patients, it does not seem to do so in all patients. In some patients, it may be less traumatic than normal voice.

Another paper Is quiet whisper harmful to the vocal mechanism? A research note. on this that I cannot access in full. The abstract seems to indicate that it is not as harmful as it was believed to be.

Recent physiological studies of whisper indicate that quiet whisper may not, as implied in past literature, be harmful to the voice. The present study examined differences in judged vocal quality pre- and post-whisper in 10 dysphonic patients, mostly college students. Results showed a significant preference for the vocal quality following a week of quiet whisper. The results are discussed in relation to clinical implications as well as clinical application.

From the Paper The Whisper and the Whistle: The Role in Vocal Trauma (excerpt from the Canadian Voice Care Foundation

Whispering, on the other hand, does not result in as forceful apposition of the vocal folds that occurs with normal speaking. It is possible, therefore, that less mucosal injury would occur.

Hufnagle and Hufnagle found a significant preference for vocal quality following a week of quiet whispering in 10 dysphonic patients, but no controls were used to compare the rapidity of improvement. Presman and Keleman found the vocal folds to assume a position only a little more approximated than for quiet respiration during quiet whispering. These findings would suggest that quiet whispering may actually be protective for the traumatized larynx.

So I guess "It is bad sometimes, but not as bad as we used to think" is the conlusion here.

  • 1
    Thanks - I was sort of afraid it would end up being a 'sometimes' answer. I think what has stunned me the more I have tried to uncover is the weird tug-of-war about what whispering actually is (are the folds assisting in the production of the sound?). There is just so much involved with muscle tension and the position of the tongue & larynx, I'm looking that direction now as well. – hudsonsedge May 20 '11 at 21:38

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .