ENTEvery 6 months I see my ENT Physician.  He clears the wax out of my ears, looks up my nose, mumbles something to his assistant, then sticks a camera scope down into my throat.  It’s mildly irritating, but THIS is why I mostly come every six months.  He says:  “Say E-E-E-E-E.” I do, and he nods his approval.

This time ’round, my vocal cords “looked great!” he said.  No nodules, no edema, no irritation from gastric juices.  That last part is important, ’cause as you grow older, the muscle that keeps stomach acid IN your stomach while you sleep, gets looser.  Now, I almost always take a Gaviscon or Pepcid before I hit the hay.

So all in all, a worthwhile check-up to hear that positive report.  Love it!  Good to go for another 6 months!

Since I’m over 60, though, I did ask him about PresbyPhonia — a condition where the muscles that sustain and support our vocal folds as well as the structures of the voice box (larynx) alter and change, affecting the way our voice sounds.  Since the vocal cords are a muscle, and I give the cords a lot of exercise every day, this is not something I necessarily need to worry about…but should watch for signs.  And it IS treatable.  (a similar aging condition for the eyes — Presbyopia — makes the muscles of the eye more rigid, and keeps you from focusing up close)

What I did NOT ask him, but I keep thinking I SHOULD ask him is:  Is it harmful to my vocal cords to clear my throat?

You know the concern.  Virtually all advice in this area claims a Voice Actor clearing his/her throat is practically akin to swallowing battery acid. 

First of all, though, it’s CHRONIC  and BEHAVIORAL throat-clearing that creates problems, not the occasional clearing of the airway to remove an obstruction or phlegm. 

What’s “chronic” throat-clearing?  More than three months.  Usually the throat-clearing is the symptom of a larger problem like an allergy, asthma, sinus infection, etc. 

Once you get used to the throat clearing, though, it becomes behavioral. The more you clear your throat, the more you’ll feel like you need to clear it.  It’s hard to know when it crosses that line.  Your throat and vocal cords take repeated abuse with constant clearing.  The resulting inflammation only reinforces the urge to clear and the cycle continues. Even if you don’t feel discomfort there can be lasting damage to your throat and voice. [from: http://www.medicaldaily.com/chronic-throat-clearing-damages-your-vocal-cords-what-are-culprits-244547]

Follow that link above for some great solutions to break the habituation of the urge to clear, and ways to clear without causing damage.

Below are some other links to helpful articles on this topic:

ALWAYS CLEARING YOUR THROAT?

THROAT-CLEARING CAUSES LONG-TERM DAMAGE

TAKING CARE OF YOUR VOICE

HOW TO CLEAR YOUR THROAT

VOCAL HEALTH ADVICE

CourVO

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