“Talking through your nose” can either be figurative or literal. When used as a figure of speech, “talking through the nose” means that someone’s talking too much. Yet “talking through your nose” can also mean a nasal voice. While there’s nothing wrong with voice-sounds that seem to come from the voice box and the nose at the same time, it makes some people feel sensitive or insecure about how they sound to other people.
People with nasal voices may feel that they’re poked fun at, or lack the confidence to sing or speak before an audience. They may also feel that their nasal voice quality is “abnormal” or “unnatural,” although speaking with a nasal voice is not a serious genetic defect or a speech impediment, If you feel that you have to get rid of the nasal quality of your voice, here are some ways to get rid of it.
What Causes a Nasal Voice?
Nasal voices are caused by the improper flow of air whenever you speak. You may not know it, but the nose is a very important organ in speech. Aside from the movement of your mouth parts and the vibration of your vocal cords, airflow is very important in producing speech sounds.
There are two kinds of nasal speech:
- Hypo-nasal speech is a nasal voice caused by an obstructed airflow. Something as simple as a clogged nose, allergies, sinusitis, or the common cold can cause hypo-nasal speech. In most cases of hypo-nasal speech, the words come across as rather hollow in depth.
- Hyper-nasal speech is a nasal voice characterized by distorted speech-sounds, and an inability to pronounce certain parts of speech like consonants. Hyper-nasal speech is caused by physical deformities like cleft lip or cleft palate. Sometimes the velopharyngeal (VP) mechanism, which is a membrane that separates the nasal and oral cavity during speech, does not work normally.
Clear the Cold
Illnesses like colds, sinusitis, and influenza can cause people to have a nasal voice. Sometimes you can’t help but have that stuffy cold when you have to present a report or make a speech. Sputum, like phlegm or mucus, need to be expelled in order to restore normal speaking patterns. Here are some ways to open up your nasal passages quickly:
- Blow your nose. Most obstructions to your nasal cavity is caused by the snot that builds up inside your nose. If you have a runny nose, carefully blow out the mucus from your nose with a clean handkerchief or a tissue paper. Do not insert a rolled-up tissue or the corner of your handkerchief inside your nose, because you may risk jamming the mucus into your nasal cavity.
- Give it a few coughs. Phlegm can give you a nasal voice because it can stick to the back of your throat. Two or three deep coughs are usually enough to expel the phlegm from your throat. Do not force yourself to cough really hard, because you may injure your vocal cords or scratch the delicate membrane lining your windpipe.
- Take a decongestant. A nasal decongestant works by reducing the swelling of mucus membranes. One or two capsules should do the trick, although the effect may not be as fast as you need it. If you want a quick relief from nasal congestion, you can inhale on menthol oil or a chest rub.
- Drink a glass of hot lemonade. A sip of hot lemonade is very soothing to your inflamed membranes whenever you have a cold. Don’t drink the lemonade ice-cold, and don’t sweeten it too much. Hot, unsweetened lemonade will do the trick to relieve swollen mucus membranes, as well as soften up the snot that’s stuffing up your nose.
See a Doctor
If your nasal voice is bothersome and you have had it for years, chances are that you are suffering from a medical condition or a physical deformity that causes it. When you have had a nasal voice for a long time and you are bothered by it, you may need to consult a doctor.
Deformities like cleft palate, cleft lip, or VP inadequacy need minor surgery. Most babies who have deformities in their mouth get quick surgery to correct the problem, but some causes of a nasal voice need to be evaluated, diagnosed, and cured by a doctor. A doctor who specializes in eye-ear-nose-throat (EENT) medical procedures may remove inflamed adenoids, tonsils, or correct VP inadequacy and other deformities and diseases.
You may be surprised how the quality of your voice improves if you breathe properly. If you take in too little air when you speak, you’ll end up with a very exhausted, hushed tone that comes across as a very nasal voice. If you inhale and hold in too much air whenever you speak, your nasal passages expand and more sound resonates through the space, giving you a nasal voice.
Correct Your Posture
Proper posture is perhaps the most important thing about good speech, and can get rid of a nasal voice in a snap. If you stoop or slouch, you’re forcing your speech organs in such a way that you don’t have a clear air passage. Improper posture will force you to speak through your nose. Here are some ways to correct your posture while you’re speaking:
- Keep your back straight. If you slouch, you reduce the area for your lungs to expand. You don’t have to keep your back ramrod straight like that of an army officer. Keep a natural position, but keep your ribcage open and relaxed for your to have plenty of room to breathe.
- Draw air from your diaphragm. A nasal quality to your voice is often caused by drawing your vocal power from your throat. The windpipe is too close to the nasal cavity, and if you draw your voice just from the throat, you’ll only end up with a very nasal voice. When you talk, sing, or perform, draw your vocal power from the diaphragm. Instead of speaking from the nose, it’s much better if you speak from the gut, so to speak.
- Look straight ahead. A nasal voice can also be caused if you bow or tilt your head when speaking. When you speak, let your windpipe have as much room to draw air to your diaphragm. When you maintain eye contact with your audience or the person you’re speaking with, you also exude an air of confidence and trust.
- Relax your shoulders. When you lift up your shoulders at attention, you put some unnecessary posture on your spine and ribcage, which also constrains your windpipe. When you speak, act naturally and let your shoulders fall into a natural position. Don’t slouch, but keep yourself relaxed.
Famous People With Nasal Voices
Sometimes there’s nothing much you can do but take your nasal voice as one of the things that make you unique. Many actors, singers, and celebrities have a nasal voice that did not hinder their path to success. Here’s a short list of celebrities who have a nasal voice:
- Fran Drescher: Her trademark nasal voice was at the center of many hilarious comic situations in the hit TV series, “The Nanny.”
- Bob Dylan: A rock and roll and pop culture icon, Dylan was the hitmaker behind such songs as “Blowin’ In The Wind” and “Like a Rolling Stone.”
- Billy Corgan: As the lead vocalist of The Smashing Pumpkins, Corgan catapulted the group through multiple Grammy Award nominations and wins.
- John Lennon: One-fourth of the iconic British group The Beatles, Lennon is a legend both at the concert scene and worthwhile causes before his death in 1980.
- Ray Romano: His sometimes witty but often corny retorts in the hit sitcom “Everybody Loves Raymond” cemented his place in TV history.
The next time you feel that you’re talking through your nose, you may want to think again about how you speak. A nasal voice does not really have to get in the way of success and your interaction with people, but there’s nothing wrong with improving your voice for the better.