Laryngeal hyperfunction during whispering: reality or myth?

J Voice. 2006 Mar;20(1):121-7. doi: 10.1016/j.jvoice.2004.10.007.


For years, otolaryngologists and voice therapists have warned voice patients that whispering causes more trauma to the larynx than normal speech. However, no large series of patients has ever been examined fiberoptically during whispering to test this hypothesis. As part of our routine examination, patients are asked to count from 1 to 10 in a normal voice and in a whispered voice. We reviewed recorded fiberoptic examinations of 100 patients who had voice complaints. We compared supraglottic hyperfunction and vocal fold closure during the normal and whispered phonation of each patient. Sixty-nine percent of the patients demonstrated increased supraglottic hyperfunction with whispered voice. Eighteen percent had no change, and 13% had less severe hyperfunction. The most common glottal configuration during whisper was an inverted Y, which resulted from compression of the anterior and middle thirds of the true vocal folds. However, 12 patients had no true vocal fold contact during whispered voice, despite having adequate glottic closure with normal voice. Although whispering involves more severe hyperfunction in most patients, it does not seem to do so in all patients. In some patients, it may be less traumatic than normal voice.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Female
  • Fiber Optic Technology
  • Glottis / physiology
  • Hoarseness
  • Humans
  • Larynx / physiology
  • Larynx / physiopathology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Phonation / physiology*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Vocal Cords / injuries*
  • Vocal Cords / physiology*
  • Vocal Cords / physiopathology
  • Voice Disorders / etiology*