How to Deal with Bad Advice About Your Vocal Disorder

“Can’t you just clear your throat?”  

Many of you who deal with vocal disorders have probably, at one time or another, been frustrated by the advice that comes from those closest to you (a family member, co-worker, close friend, spouse, etc…). You’ve heard your share of comments like:

— “Maybe you should try some honey-lemon tea…”
— “You should gargle with warm salt water.”
— “I know what you need… a nice long vacation. You’re just too stressed out.”
— “Have you ever tried to just clear your throat really good?”
— “What about a cough drop or a mint or something?”
— “Maybe you could just try to talk louder.”
— “You should just take a hot shower or something… to help loosen up all of that stuff that built up around your vocal chords.”
— “You probably just need to get really, REALLY mad. Wanna go break some plates or something?”

Statements like these may hold very little value when it comes to finding a solution to your vocal disorder. At times, these statements may even come off as irritating and insulting, due to their over-simplistic nature. However, if that is the case, I challenge you to change your perspective (shift your paradigm)!

The fact that someone offers any sort of a solution (albeit, not a very useful solution) shows that they have some level of interest in you and your healing. Many times people who don’t have vocal disorders have no idea what they can do to help. Guess what… they feel helpless! So, they are trying to do (or say) whatever they can to help the situation. They want to leave no stone unturned.

Everyone wants to believe that there is some magical, miracle cure for vocal disorders. We want to believe that the medical professionals who have devoted their lives to researching these conditions have, somehow, over-complicated things and (in fact) everything can really be cured with a cup of chicken soup.

In life, when we evaluate situations from the outside, it is often human nature to look at the obvious things first. For example, I once had a friend who needed help working on her computer. She’d tried everything she knew to do, but the keyboard was not responding. She clicked through the computer settings. She rebooted the computer. She even had me surfing the net to Google her particular keyboard to see if there had been a recall on it. She called the help desk and they tried different diagnostics and told her that she may need to purchase a new keyboard. When I went to her house to help her troubleshoot, the first thing I did was check the back of the computer and… you guessed it … the keyboard was NOT PLUGGED IN properly.

Secretly, I think, we always hope situations will turn out this way… especially when they are more serious, when they affect someone we really care about, and when the person we care about is suffering in some way. So, it’s not really about making ourselves a hero or trying to make someone else look silly by stating something that they have obviously already thought of on their own. It’s more about partnering with someone that we care about and doing whatever we can to let them know that they are not alone.

So, the next time someone offers advice that you know will not be really helpful for you, consider the following:

  1. Thank them for the thought
  2. Be open to telling them more about your condition (and be sure to tell them the name of your diagnosis)
  3. Tell them something (specific) that they can do to help make life just a little bit easier for you
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  1. Shirley Andexler says:

    I AM frustrated! I lived in CO when I was diagnosed with SD with tremors. The doctor there treated it with botox, which really didn’t help. I only had a whisper for many weeks and then a decent voice for one or two weeks then it was back to my SD voice. So because I had to drive 3 hrs one way to go to the specialist, and had no results, I stopped the treatments. Very discouraged. I moved after that experience, decided to try again. This specialist said he questioned the SD diagnosis and thought it was only tremors. He recommended a speech therapist. I was really confused and discouraged. I haven’t done anything since, other than watching your videos. It’s not getting better….I do have days that aren’t too bad, but that doesn’t happen often. The rest of the time I’m “watching” every word I say….People don’t understand me (even family) especially on the phone.
    Any suggestions?
    Thanks, Shirley

    • Doing vocal exercises may be able to help some, especially with a tremor. I had one when SD first started to settle in with me and speech therapy helped me get rid of most of it. Also try not to stress out over your voice because stress makes it a lot worse.

  2. susan reagan says:

    try the speech therapy, but give it a good chance. It takes much more than a few treatments. I am 9 months into treatment and just getting a raspy voice back. If insurance is a problem or payment is a problem try to find a local college that may have a graduate level speech program. They may be able to set you up with an advanced student that can give you the time and attention needed.

  3. Connie Pike is a speech pathologist who herself has Spasmodic Dysphonia.
    See her book, “Free to Speak: Overcoming Spasmodic Dysphonia”, which uses DRUG-FREE methods to
    treat SD (Spasmodic Dysphonia).

  4. Here’s a link to readers’ comments, on, about Connie’s book (this link is to the
    majority of readers, who commented, who found her book very helpful. (I get no kickback from Connie!).

    Carol Sidofsky