Voices, voices everywhere

A week of voices in the media

Take last week in voice – a week in mid-March where the subject of people’s voices came repeatedly to the fore. O.K, it could be that as a voice specialist SLT, I register this stuff more readily. But having not written a voice article for a while, it was as if I were being prompted virtually every day last week, that it was about time. 

If your job is to work with a range of clients with voice issues and desires, every week is going to be heavily peppered with voices from clients who present to clinics, in-person or online.   It was the added voice issues that presented via the media last week that elevated voice to a more public level.  Each of the news stories highlighted an important truth about voice or a common myth worthy of some exploration.  Let’s start with morning T.V presenter Lorraine Kelly losing her voice.

A wee bit of voice absence – Lorraine Kelly’s Laryngitis

One morning, Lorraine Kelly’s reassuringly reliably chatty voice became unreliable.  To my ear it was a clear case of laryngitis – a temporary swelling or inflammation of the vocal cords.  Laryngitis can set in very quickly.  It can be the first sign that something bigger is about to start, usually an upper respiratory tract infection or a flu virus.  It can often present with no pain. In Lorraine Kelly’s case, she did not seem to be in any throat discomfort at that point – her speedy speech delivery was continually attempted but her vocal cords weren’t cooperating. 

Viewers texted in various suggestions to help her voice come back – the usual honey and lemon type things, stick a bit of whisky in it etc. Dr Hilary said adding the drop of alcohol probably wouldn’t hurt.  The truth is, Laryngitis just needs to stay it’s course and resolve naturally.  Once the vocal cords swell, they just need the time they need to get back to their usual thinner selves. The best thing  is to stop talking for a while – particularly hard for a T.V host with a programme to present.  (Oh, and if the alcohol happened to make you more chatty, that would make things worse).

 If laryngitis has set in, nothing a person does will prevent a temporary loss of voice. Laryngitis means that at some point, you’re voice is going to go on an unauthorised vocal vacation. The good news is, within a week, it’s likely to come back. 

Does Paris Hilton sound different?

It’s not something I would generally take an interest in. According to Alison Hammond on ITV’s This Morning Programme though, the answer is yes, Paris sounds different. It’s apparently all to do with Paris revealing her side of her life story rather than just allowing the press to. This speaking up for herself more seems to have brought with it a more confident sounding voice. Perceptually, the creak in Paris’ voice is not fully eliminated. She admits a close friendship with Kim Kardashian – the queen of creaky voice so some of that influence is likely to have crept in. Our social circle can most definitely infuse into our own sound.  

There’s an important reality about voice here. It’s that strength can often be more easily conveyed from a stronger sounding voice.  Authenticity and speaking truth makes clearer voice more of a likelihood.  

This leads me to another evolving voice.

Princess Eugenie & vocal strength

Around the middle of last week, I was contacted by a journalist for comment on Princess Eugenie’s voice.  It’s an interesting voice that’s also changed over time. Not a voice that is naturally made to project and this fact alone is likely to be the biggest cause of the huskiness that characterised it quite heavily a few years ago.  There are many reasons for husky voices.

One of these is a lot of voice use when your voice production is more of the restrained throaty type.  It takes changes, often in the person to free up the voice. It can start with awareness of how your voice sounds or feels and a wish to develop. Sometimes it changes due to emotional shifts.  Princess Eugenie champions worthy causes, particularly campaigns against slavery and human trafficking.  With life purpose often comes vocal clarity.  

Paul Martin & vocal flogging 

It’s a guilty pleasure on the home working days to finish the clinic, make a cuppa and watch an episode of the BBC’s ‘Flog It’ programme. The programme is only on repeat now but the temporary distraction of visual access to interesting stuff one doesn’t have to physically find a place for at home, or dust, is curiously satisfying.  Paul Martin gives it his enthusiastic presenting all, whether his voice is in pristine condition or not.  Hoarseness has set in on a few occasions. In the episode I caught this week, he was severely hoarse, a subject one of the contestants and Paul Martin himself raised.  He put it down to getting so excited at the auctions.  It’s not uncommon for voice strain to take hold when a person is very animated or acting very animated.  Heightened emotion coupled with excessive and/or louder voice use will cause vocal cracks and sometimes temporary loss.  Good vocal awareness and technique can prevent against this.

Parkinson’s Disease – Movers and Shakers

One morning last week, the BBC breakfast news interviewed journalists Paul Mayhew-Archer and Rory Cellan-Jones about their new podcast Movers and Shakers. It’s an informative foray into the realities of living with Parkinson’s Disease (PD) and in spite of the challenges of that condition, has entertainment at its core – even though Jeremy Paxman does his best to keep the gloom factor present.  

Parkinson’s Disease has a variety of possibly life limiting events linked to it.  One of them is voice and speech deterioration.  As Paul Mayhew-Archer put it,  ‘it tries to take away all your ways of communicating’.   For many, there are strategies to combat against this – maintaining awareness regarding levels of voice volume for example and techniques to keep the voice louder for longer. It’s a neurological condition that voice SLTs commonly work with, working to extend voice and communication ability which can mean so much to those living with P.D. 

Gary Lineker speaks up and voices out

At the end of the week, with my article still not written, a radio announcer informed us that Gary Lineker had lost his voice and would not be hosting Match of the Day. It was to be his return to hosting following his recent enforced absence. Speaking out about the government’s immigration policy put the BBC into a policy quandary. Nowadays, speaking out can be done silently, via a tweet. It’s the aftermath of controversial comments that unleashes sustained commentary, from both the media and the commentator. Thus, Gary Lineker found himself giving his opinion, not just in his prime time Match of the Day slot but for the best part of a week.   

And so it was that at the week’s end, another voice had reached its temporary limit.   The cause  according to Gary was a ‘nasty cold’ – probably the most likely of all causes.  It is worth remembering though that colds and flus hit us more readily at times when we are emotionally under pressure.  If you’re finding it hard to step back, your voice might just find a way for you.