'Tis the season to get sick. I used to think laryngitis just happened in cartoons or movies, but in the last few years, it's been happening to me more often. Maybe I raise my voice too often at my daughter, so it serves me right.
A Lot to Swallow
The larynx is the elaborate device in our throat made of cartilage and muscle, ligaments and membrane. Among other things, the larynx protects our lungs, controls our breathing and generates voiced sounds, which can be important if you're into ventriloquism.
During puberty, its one of those things that grows much more in males than in females. These changes lead to the squeaky voices of teenage boys and the more prominent Adam's apple in men, which can be helpful in identifying female impersonators.
Into the Folds
The vocal cords or folds, are two elastic bands of tissue across the trachea (windpipe), made of mucous membrane, muscle and cartilage. Not to be confused with the false vocal folds above them, which are mostly to keep things out of the trachea, not making sounds.
The vocal folds are open when we breathe and make unvoiced sounds. When we make voiced sounds the flaps open and close quickly so that jets of air pass through to form vibrations in the air. The top layer of the vocal folds is loose enough to vibrate in amucosal wave. When the vocal cords or folds are stretched more tightly, they have a higher pitch. If less air passes through, the sound is not as loud.
With laryngitis, the folds swell up, often in response to a virus. This affects how they vibrate and the formation of the mucosal wave (I love that phrase). The result is that I sound like a frog. Maybe I should have done a podcast to give you the full effect.
Making the Moist of It
It makes sense that you need liquids to keep the mucus flowing to protect your voice and the mucosal wave. But different sites had sometimes conflicting information on how to do this. In any case, here's three interesting things I found out I should have avoided to protect my voice:
1. Caffeine: Caffeine dehydrates. No more chai lattes.
2. Menthol: Menthol dehydrates. So much for Fisherman's Friends.
3. Whispering: Whispering puts extra strain on your vocal folds. Guess I need an ipad to write messages.
Unfortunately, I cannot actually vouch for the effectiveness of this advice, since I didn't do any of them and didn't have control throats to compare the results. I'll try them next time. I hope you don't have any reason to.