Voice Acting

The Dangers of Whispering For Your Voice

Tara Parachuk | July 2, 2009

Man with finger over mouth to signal be quiet

Whispering may seem like a good way to conserve your voice. But in reality, it can be very taxing!

There are many myths out there about what does and does not hurt your voice. What happens if you whisper too much?

In this article

  1. Dangers of Whispering and How It Affects Your Voice
  2. What have your experiences been with whispering? Do you purposely avoid it?

Many people tend to think whispering is harmless. Fact is, whispering affects the voice in a negative way.

Find out what whispering does to your voice and how you can take care here at Vox Daily.

Dangers of Whispering and How It Affects Your Voice

Whispering kills resonance?

An article on the Voice Academy microsite, hosted on the University of Iowa website, covers vocal fatigue (quite a worthwhile read) and a bit about the affects of whispering on the voice.

The article relates that whispering is talking without vibration of the vocal folds. If the vocal muscles are fatigued, whispering won’t allow them to rest.

Also, whispering may have a dehydrating effect.

Just think about it:

If you don’t allow your vocal folds to vibrate, you’re preventing your vocal folds from working properly and aren’t getting any beautiful or resonant sound out of your voice!

When your vocal folds are pulled tight and unable to rub together, it would make sense that a drying affect might occur.

Another thought just occurred to me as to why some people may think that whispering actually helps lessen strain on the voice.

When you are whispering, the volume of your voice is gets quieter, giving the impression that the voice is not being used as vigorously or strenuously because of its quietness.

While it may not be a loud yell or bloodcurdling scream that abuses the instrument, whispering silently stifles the voice unwittingly over time and may contribute to vocal fatigue among other things.

When I published an article about vocal rest several days ago, a comment came in from Priscilla Hamilton, sharing that whispering can be even more of a strain on the vocal folds than speaking. She also suggested that there is a misconception that it is OK to whisper while on vocal rest.

Even though some people may see whispering as a means to speak while on vocal rest, it might be better to just write down what you’re trying to say on a notepad instead of straining the vocal folds during a period of rest or recovery.

In the same vein, if you are stuck in bed and also on vocal rest, consider asking for help by:

  • ringing a bell
  • clapping your hands
  • knocking on the headboard

What have your experiences been with whispering? Do you purposely avoid it?

Looking forward to hearing from you!

Best wishes,

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  • Avatar for Sanjo Ogunseye
    Sanjo Ogunseye
    July 3, 2009, 8:53 am

    Spot on! I remember having an experience sometime ago where I had this commercial I was to voice for but, had somehow lost my voice. I was racing against time and was frantically doing all I could to remedy the situation. I resorted to whispering and I just noticed my voice got worse, so I read up and saw just what you’ve highlighted in this post. Knowledge is indeed power, to think I’d been whispering when I lost my voice for ages, not knowing I was making it worse is really a wake up call. Voice actors and other voice professionals need to be on the top of their craft. Thanks

  • Avatar for Cira Larkin
    Cira Larkin
    July 3, 2009, 1:42 pm

    Really good article, Stephanie.
    By finding out the hard way, I have been aware of the “damage of whispering” for years. Whispering exhausts the voice and pushes it almost to a state of laryngitis.
    I also want to point out that pushing your voice out of your range will do the exact same thing. For example, if you are a woman with a naturally high register, and you try to sound “deep and sultry” (which is almost a type of whispering), it will tax your chords beyond their limits, and you’ll be out of commission for days!
    As far as screaming: It can be done. As a stage actress, I have been called upon to scream repeatedly for dozens of performances in a row for weeks on end. In order to save the voice, it can be done almost effortlessly by using the back of the throat and soft palate, and forcefully expelling air from the diaphragm. I have done this for years with no damage to my pipes. (This technique also comes in handy as a parent. As a mother of three boys, I have certainly done my share of yelling!) :o)

  • Avatar for Bonnie Engel Lee
    Bonnie Engel Lee
    July 3, 2009, 3:30 pm

    I am really enjoying this series that you are doing about vocal behaviors such as voice rest and whispering. Some experts indicate that all whispers are not the same. If you whisper a message into someone’s ear it is not the same as a stage whisper, in which you are trying to project a whispered voice. The latter involves significant vocal effort in order to be heard, which is deleterious to healthy voice production. The former use of whispering may not have a negative impact on the voice unless used consistently for extended periods of time.
    When a person whispers, because their vocal folds are open and air is flowing through without the normal restriction of air flow that occurs during normal voicing, phrases tend to be short and speakers need to inhale and exhale more often in order to replenish the air supply. The increased frequency of inhaling and exhaling may also strain the vocal mechanism when a person whispers for an extended period of time.
    Bonnie Engel Lee, Ph.D.
    Speech/Language Pathologist

  • Avatar for Stephanie Ciccarelli
    Stephanie Ciccarelli
    July 3, 2009, 3:43 pm

    Hi Bonnie,
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts! It’s nice to have a Speech / Language Pathologist chiming in. Yes, you are correct to say that stage whispering is much different from regular whispering. It’s interesting to think about. At the end of the day, it would appear that whispering is still a culprit, regardless of its classification!
    Thank you again for joining the conversation 🙂
    Best wishes,

  • Avatar for iambinary
    August 14, 2009, 4:06 pm

    i appreciate Bonnie’s informed comment, and was interesting. the classification helps for deeper understanding as the blog piece mentioned nothing about stage whispering.

  • Avatar for Michael L Gregorash
    Michael L Gregorash
    June 12, 2010, 12:52 pm

    Thank you for this series of helpful articles and information about things to be aware of in order to preserve and even strengthen your voice. Being somewhat new to the voice-over industry, such tidbits are welcome pieces of information to help me ensure that I am doing all I can to take care of my voice!

  • Avatar for Edward Watkins
    Edward Watkins
    August 3, 2011, 4:20 pm

    I’m a singer but have been whistling since as long as I can remember. Is it true that whistling hurts the voice? I’m familiar with whispering.

  • Avatar for manju
    September 12, 2011, 1:01 am

    really very good article.I experianced it myself personally. I whisperd a lot and suffered from vocal cord nodule,which turned malignant in 2 -3years .

  • Avatar for Daniel
    March 31, 2013, 1:06 pm

    Define whispering. If whispering is forcing air out of your mouth harshly while remaining quiet, sure that would bad bad. But that’s barely whispering isn’t it. Only people in movies whisper like that. I whisper but moving my lips and breathing out normally. Easily audible in a quiet room, and is no more strain that breathing through your mouth. I think you’re all whispering wrong…

  • Avatar for Ron
    October 14, 2013, 6:51 pm

    My voice has been like a whisper for over 10 years. I have been to various ENT’S, but no one really knows what is going on. All my tests come back normal. I did have a bioplastique (piece put by left vocal chord), which did give me a voice, but did not last. my voice went back to a whisper. I do not know what to do. Please note… e mails are only stored for 4 hours then deleted automaticly.

  • Avatar for Paul Ashley
    Paul Ashley
    May 29, 2017, 11:45 pm

    I’ve just experienced the problem with whispering. After several days of practicing new songs with my guitar and whispering the vocals rather than singing, I can tell my full voice is not what it should be. Now I need to figure out how to repair the damage.

  • Avatar for Carolyn Mason
    Carolyn Mason
    August 18, 2018, 2:34 pm

    I have been hoarse for over 5 months! My regular doctor sent me to an ENT about a month ago and he said that he thought it was stomach acid that was causing the hoarseness but he said the medicine I would need to take is damaging to the kidneys so he wanted to discuss it with my family doctor. I haven’t heard from either of them and since I was at a Pain Clinic a few days ago, the doctor said I should be on complete voice rest for at least a month, maybe two and it has been very hard. So I have started whispering. I wondered if whispering would damage my vocal cords so here I am reading everything I can find about it!

    • Avatar for Tanya
      August 20, 2018, 7:55 am

      Yikes – that sounds difficult to be going through.
      We hope you’re able to get to the root of the cause and experience a speedy recovery!

  • Avatar for Howard Goodman
    Howard Goodman
    August 27, 2019, 10:58 pm

    I became curious after listening to a dialogue about this subject on NPR. After reading this article. I learned something. Thank you.

    • Avatar for Lubna
      September 6, 2019, 10:23 am

      Hi Howard,

      Thank you for reading our blog. I am glad you found the article useful!

      – Lubna