Ever have one of those colds that just doesn’t go away? That’s where I’m at. For the past month I’ve been battling an upper respiratory infection that’s wreaked havoc on my voice. For about a day I sounded a bit like Tom Waits and I thought “Woohoo! Maybe I can moonlight as a soulful crooner!” Then my voice disappeared for a week and my voice was reduced to a whisper. For about a week since, I’ve sounded more like Peter Brady going through puberty. Or maybe a wounded goose. My voice keeps cracking, disappearing and going in and out.
This led me to thinking about all the voice professionals I work with, what do they do when they get sick? I mean, I can fake it through conference calls with clients and do the best I can…but what if your voice IS your business. So I decided to ask some of the voiceover pros we’ve worked with what they do. Here are a few of the responses I got back:
“When sickness hits first, I double my water intake to keep my vocal chords hydrated as much as possible. I gargle with salt water every few hours, I drink warm, not hot, black tea with fresh lemon and honey but my main go to, is an Asian Honey and Loquat syrup. I just take a big spoonful of it just before a job or audition as it coats the vocal folds and keeps them flat and flowing in the correct direction. The hoarseness comes from your vocal chords not being flat, so this helps a lot. Lastly, I rest my voice as much as I can when it’s like this from overuse, to give my vocal chords the time to recoup!”
“The go-to remedy for me is a vile concoction called Sanderson’s Throat Specific. This was recommended to me decades ago by an opera singer. If your voice has disappeared following a bad cold, a swig of Sanderson’s just before the session normally gets you through. The ingredients list looks like a spell from the dark arts, but it works.”
“Often times, if my throat is just a little sore, Throat Coat tea with some honey is very soothing. But in more desperate situation, when my voice sounds hoarse, I’ve found Cepacol to be a very quick band-aid to temporarily get me sounding normal.”
“I’ve found that the very best thing both to stave off an illness and to mitigate its effects is water. Lots and lots and lots of water. I make a strong effort to stay hydrated anyway, but when I’m ill I make sure to have a drink of water every 10-20 minutes all day long.
I also gargle with salt water right before I go to sleep for the night. That helps a lot with sore throats, but it’s not a perfect fix – my voice is often scratchy the next day, even if it doesn’t hurt.
One of my favorite VO teachers gives the advice “don’t get sick.” I know he uses something called Nin Jiom Pei Pa Koa. It tastes really good, so that probably helps!”
“When I feel that dreaded head or chest cold coming, I immediately up my Vitamin C intake. Usually with Emergen-C. The good thing is, you can’t OD on Vitamin C. I used to try the teas, the elixirs, the allergy meds. They might clear your head a little, but your voice still won’t sound the same. If it’s a persistent bugger, the best remedy?…. a good book. You’re done for baby. Just ride it out for a few days and catch up on some non-work reading. Teachers get spring break and summer holidays. Even your partner probably gets 2 or 3 weeks of time off. A voice actor’s vacation is the time they’re sick.”
“I keep my sinuses clear using the Neti Pot 1-2 times a week when healthy and daily if I feel any type of symptoms of congestion associated with a cold, the flu, etc. . I know some use it daily regardless but for me 1-2 times a week seems to do the trick!
I don’t drink any coffee of any type, and every morning I make either a cup of Hot Peppermint Tea or Green Tea (I alternate daily). It’s nice to use before I do any type of vocal warm up or exercise.
Finally, I do my best to exercise daily, both for my vocal health (breathing techniques, mouth muscle exercises, etc…) and my overall physical health (run on the treadmill, cardio or weights).”
“I don’t really have any special or voodoo solutions, other than to rest the voice and have some chamomile tea with honey.”
So these are some solutions the pros who rely on their voices to make a living are using. I may give a few of these a whirl to see if I can get my voice back. How about you? Have you tried any of these solutions when you’ve lost your voice?