Speakers have all kinds of nervous habits, and throat-clearing is a common one.
Clearing your throat once before you begin a speech is fine. Doing so throughout your speech distracts your listeners, detracts from your message, and shows that you’re nervous.
But throat-clearing isn’t always caused by nerves, despite how it appears to others.
The best way to stop throat-clearing is first to identify why you’re doing it. Then, you can apply the right remedy.
Why do people clear their throat when speaking?
Throat-clearing may be a physical symptom or a psychological one.* Physical conditions that can compel a person to clear their throat repeatedly include:
- Acid reflux
If you have one of these conditions or suspect you might, visit your health care provider for an exam and some tips on managing your throat-clearing.
It’s also recommended to visit your provider if your throat-clearing is excessive, as it may be a sign of another condition.
An individual might also clear their throat constantly because they either are nervous or simply have made it a bad habit. These are psychological reasons for throat-clearing that you can usually address on your own.
Tips for managing throat-clearing
Provided you’ve gotten a clean bill of health from your doctor, you can do several things to stop clearing your throat all the time.
1. First, keep your throat moist.
When your throat is dry, you’ll likely feel an urge to clear it. You can ease dryness by:
- Drinking plenty of fluids throughout the day.
- Sipping water just before a speech and maybe during your speech if it’s a long one.
- Cutting back on caffeinated and alcoholic beverages. Both draw water out of the body.
- Sucking on mild lozenges—not the strongly medicated ones that people use when they’re sick. You can find pectin cough drops and vitamin C drops in most stores.
- Chewing gum.
2. Changing your throat-clearing behavior may also take a bit of self-analysis.
You could record yourself giving speeches and listen to the recordings afterward. This will show you how much you’re clearing your throat when you talk.
3. Another good way to break the throat-clearing habit is to train yourself to swallow instead of clear.
Swallowing can silently relieve the sensations you’re feeling that make you want to clear your throat.
4. Finally, you can tackle throat-clearing by addressing your anxiety about public speaking.
We’ll produce blog posts about this issue and more in the months to come.
The Mouthfuls is a supportive environment in which to practice speaking and overcome your nervousness. You’ll get helpful feedback on your speech habits from your peers. You’ll also be able to watch yourself on YouTube if you attend our Zoom events.
* The information presented in this and other blog posts on our site is not intended to diagnose or treat any medical condition. Always consult your health care provider about medical concerns.
- https://healthcare.utah.edu/healthfeed/postings/2013/04/041713vocalhealth.php, accessed 09/18/2022
- https://www.nbcnews.com/healthmain/chronic-throat-clearers-were-you-1C6436920, accessed 09/18/2022
- Photo by Towfiqu barbhuiya on Unsplash