X Factor throat specialist
With X factor winner Matt Cardle as the Christmas number one, we talk to consultant throat specialist Dr Gerald Brookes on the perils of high pressure performing
This year?s X Factor contest had its magical moments, its highs and lows and bickering judges, it also had its fair share of coughs and colds...even Simon Cowell admitted he?d been suffering what was jokingly referred to as ?man flu? by the members of his group, One Direction.
The show?s winner Matt Cardle?s battle to sing is well known. With just weeks to go to the end of the competition viewers saw him at home in bed in Essex trying to rest his throat and he later told This Morning on ITV that he?d had ?a touch of laryngitis and tracheitis?.
Consultant throat specialist Dr Gerald Brookes is the man the X Factor has turned to for the past four years whenever any of its contestants has a throat problem. Formerly a consultant at the Royal National Throat, Nose and Ear Hospital and The National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery, he now practices at The Harley Street ENT Clinic and much of his work is with singers.
Dr Brookes equates the X Factor contestants to vocal athletes who have to be able to perform each weekend. He says they need to look after their voices for what can be a gruelling 10 weeks of shows. Ideally, he says, it?s best to hear of any potential problems sooner rather than later, as then there?s time to give appropriate medical treatment and allow the contestant to rest their voice if necessary before the next round of the competition.
The contestants also find themselves in a uniquely pressurised environment - performing at the weekend and living under the same roof during the week. Stress affects the body?s defences and because winter is the season of coughs and colds, the performers find themselves prone to picking up viruses and bacteria.
Another problem which the amateur contestants may face concerns singing technique. Dr Brookes says many of the singers are self-taught and often haven?t had the benefit of professional tuition: ?They may have some faulty voice production habits which are going to put an extra strain on the vocal folds and give them problems which will make the voice tire easily.?
When the singing has to stop
Dr Brookes says there?s only really one voice problem which would mean someone couldn?t sing: ?If a singer has an inflammatory problem of their vocal cords and they overused or forced the voice, it is possible to get acute bleeding under the surface of the vocal cord where it forms like a blood blister. If you recognise this, you just can?t let them sing because if they go on and perform with that problem and aggravate it, they may end up with scarring under the vocal cord surface that is very likely to give them a husky hoarse voice semi-permanently.?