How can I stop myself from throat-clearing obsessively right before I go on stage?
VoiceCouncil Magazine asked noted Speach-Language Pathologist Kristie Knickerbocker to help solve a common dilemma for many singers:
Vocal performers, whether singing or public speaking, have rituals that they swear by. Some don’t even know they run through these “habits” just before beginning their performance.
Throat clearing itself is identified in 2 instances: following a sickness, like a cold or upper respiratory infection, or a response to sensations in the larynx.
We refer to these sensations as “globus sensations”: it’s the feeling that something is “there” in your throat.
They can occur from reflux or vocal cord pathologies, and become exacerbated because the person experiencing the sensations becomes hypersensitive.
The harm that throat clearing can cause includes hyperfunction from phonotrauma, where the vocal cords collide too violently.
Clearing Yourself of Throat Clearing
So, how can you stop from giving in to this potentially harmful vocal habit if it is part of your pre-vocalizing routine?
Try a forceful swallow, a sniff-and-swallow, or a forceful dog pant with abdomen movement.
These behaviors can be used to replace and eventually desensitize you from the habit.
A Speech-Language Pathologist can help with this training as well.
(Reference: Clinical Voice Pathology: Theory and Management. Stemple, Glaze & Klaben 2010).
Kristie Knickerbocker, MS, CCC-SLP, is a speech-language pathologist and singing voice specialist in Fort Worth, Texas. She provides voice, swallowing and speech therapy in her own private practice, a tempo Voice Center, LLC. She also lectures on the singing voice to area choirs and students. She is an affiliate of ASHA Special Interest Group 3, Voice and Voice Disorders, NATS and is an active member of PAVA. She keeps a blog on her website at www.atempovoicecenter.com