Man holding throatWhat happens if you take your vocal cords (or vocal folds) for granted?

It’s easy to fall into a pattern of voice abuse, and the scariest part is, you may not even realize you are doing it or how vulnerable your vocal cords truly are.
People in broadcast radio should take special note of this article.

Hear a cautionary story from voice talent Dave McCree about one of his friends who suffers from Spasmodic Dysphonia, and how years of overuse transformed a successful broadcasting career into that of a career in journalism, penning the stories instead of reading them.

Take Care of Your Voice From Day One

By Dave McCree

Since 1985 I have been the host of Jim Davidson’s nationally syndicated radio program called How To Plan Your Life. The reason I shared this is not to brag, but simply to explain that the reason I am doing it is because Jim Davidson could not continue doing his own program because he abused his vocal cords by overuse.

In addition to giving motivational speeches around the country he was producing his five minute radio programs 3-4 weeks ahead of scheduled air time just to keep ahead. Plus, he was experiencing stress in his personal life, which together spelled disaster to his cords.

Jim never had any formal vocal or broadcast experience to guide him on how much care he should give to his precious cords. Consequently, the price he paid was the complete loss of his vocal cords due to stress. Jim was diagnosed with something called Spasmodic Dysphonia. The cords wrap themselves around each other so all you can do is whisper. Pretty scary, huh?

Fortunately, Little Rock Arkansas has one the nations foremost doctors who specialized in repair of this medical disorder.

Fortunately, Jim regained full use of his cords after six months of therapy. However, he was afraid to overuse his cords again so he hired me to produce and host his syndicated radio program.

My good friend, Jim Davidson, is now a successful nationally syndicated newspaper columnist using many of his 3,000 radio scripts for use in his column. His radio program is still aired on several stations with yours truly, Dave McCree as host.

From my broadcasting and recording experience [since 1966], I have found that nothing ministers and speeds healing to a sore throat and cords better than gargling with warm water and salt several better times a day after meals and before going to bed. Obviously, rest must be exercised. I also have been successful incorporating additional prayer during those times of stress.
Dave McCree

Has Spasmodic Dysphonia Affected Your Life?

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts and also any comments you may have for Dave.
Best wishes,

© Gregor


  1. Glad to hear that Jim was able to recover. I’ll try the salt water gargle.. is there a certain ratio to use (i.e. one teaspoon per cup)?
    A few years ago, I would periodically lose my voice… only for a few minutes at a time, however. I would get this feeling like a needle in my throat and a few minutes later I was left with a hoarse whisper. I went to an ENT doc who used a scope to view my vocal cords. He didn’t detect any nodules but he did see the folds were somewhat inflamed and said that GERD (reflux) might be culprit. I began taking a proton pump inhibitor (Protonix, then, later, Nexium), which I continue to take to this day. I no longer have a problem with reflux and haven’t had any more ‘episodes’. I’m trying to lose weight as the extra pounds are what caused me to develop acid reflux in the first place. I still work in broadcasting and am starting to learn to pull back on my reads as the microphone hears all.
    Glad you posted this.

  2. While I have not been affected by spasmodic (or spastic dysphonia), I am well aware of this condition as a speech/language pathologist who has worked with clients with this particular vocal problem. For those of you who listen to NPR, you might want to listen to The Diane Rehm show, a morning talk show. Mrs. Rehm has discussed this condition publicly and if you listen to her voice, you’ll become acquainted with the vocal symptoms such as breathiness, hoarseness and intermittent phonation. Some clients experience relief from symptoms for several months following botox injections in the vocal cords (folds).

  3. Greetings to all. I feel as if I might need to add some clarification to this post. Spasmodic Dysphonia is a true neurological condition (think of something like a seizure, or Parkinson’s). This means that one doesn’t get it from overusing one’s voice. Sadly, some people are just afflicted with this disorder. There are two major types. One affects the muscles that open or abduct the vocal folds and it is more rare. The more common type affects the muscles that close the vocal folds or adductors. Something that is similar, but should not be confused or used interchangeably is muscle tension dysphonia (MTD). MTD can result from voice overuse and exceptional stress on the voice. In terms of how to think about this, it would be more like carpal tunnel syndrome meaning repetitive and excessive use causes a problem, but the neurological system is essentially intact.
    Botox can be used for both as can therapy. However, therapy alone is often less effective in patients with true spasmodic dysphonia owing to its neurological underpinning.
    Just reading this story, I would think that the patient may have had MTD rather than SD. Both are hard on the voice, but they aren’t quite the same thing.

  4. Dave,
    You did not mention the doctors name in Little Rock, can you share that with me. I also want to know how much salt did you add to the gargle. thanks, Lynn


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