Without a doubt, being ill — even with something as routine as the common cold or a basic case of the flu — is a serious setback in productivity and makes even the simplest tasks difficult. Feeling the pressures of work and the need to keep soldiering forward despite feeling miserable is common to almost everyone regardless of occupation; but for singers, newscasters, and those of us who make our living recording our own voice, having stuffed sinuses or a gravelly throat which alters our “sound” renders us absolutely unable to work.
So recognizable is my “voiceprint” while voicing IVR prompts — and the importance that my sound files recorded today match my sound files of a year ago — that as much as I might *feel* well enough to stand in front of the mic and knock off a few scripts — it’s wasted time if a cold or congestion has altered the way I sound. While not even remotely full-blown OCD, I am a near-compulsive hand-washer. And I’m diligent about getting a flu shot every year. But the sad fact remains: if a cold or flu has your name on it, your only choice is to slow down, rest, and let it run its course. (And don’t try to sneak back to work before it’s completely gone; when I’m at the tail-end of a cold and feel otherwise fine enough to step back up to the mic, I’ve had long-term clients — who know me well and know my sound even better—say: “Nope. We can still hear it. You’re 90% there, but not quite.”)
Even something as simple as a teeth cleaning or minor dental procedure which requires freezing of the mouth and which might create an annoyance for an accountant (for example) returning to work and worrying about lop-sided face and drool issues —puts someone like myself out of work for half a day, easily.
I was also faced with an interesting challenge a few years ago, when I became one of the several thousand adults per year who are fitted with braces to correct a bite-alignment issue. Aesthetics aide; so worried was I about the potential for them affecting my diction that I did some work with a speech pathologist to make sure they didn’t pose a problem with voicing; luckily, for the year and a half or orthodontia, they didn’t pose a problem. I give my orthodontist credit for fully understanding the whole interlocking economy of: “Can’t work/can’t pay orthodontic bill”.
The last aspect of the human factors in voice care is not allowing the voice to be subjected to extreme strain — this is not to say that in-between takes I lie around the house in Celine-Dion-Style-Voice-Arrest, with a cashmere Pashmina wrapped around my throat, sipping lemon tea, with houseboys using palm fronds to coax the humidifier steam towards me. It’s more about not allowing the voice to sustain injury: I was told by an old and wise DJ years ago to never try to speak above a crowd, never out-shout anyone, and resist roller coasters/concerts/sporting events if they make you scream. Ever notice how deep, sultry, and gravelly your voice can sound the day after a simple night out in a crowded pub, where you’ve been forced to converse for a few hours at a loud volume? That would be useful if I were auditioning the next day for a Demi-Moore-sounding radio spot (and that’s actually a frequent character description on radio copy specs.) Otherwise: it’s a sign of minor vocal cord strain, and should be avoided if your “sound” is your product.