A Voice Actor’s Crazy Cure for the Hiccups

I hate the hiccups.

I really, REALLY hate the hiccups.

Not only do they make it impossible to record any voiceover work, mine are painful.

You see, I don’t get the cute little “Excuse me” kind of hiccups. I don’t get the “Oops, I’ve had a little too much to drink” kind of hiccups. I get horribly horrendous hiccups. The kind that hurt. The kind that make my ears pop. The kind that feel like someone’s practicing kickboxing in my stomach. The kind that go on for over an hour and make my diaphragm sore.

The worst ones are the kind that fiendishly show up around bedtime. Have you ever tried to go to sleep when your diaphragm is seizing up every 30 seconds? It can’t be done.

And oh, the things I’ve tried to cure them:

Holding my breath
Having someone try to scare me
Drinking a glass of water
Drinking a glass of water from the far edge of the glass while bent over
Breathing into a paper bag
Dissolving a teaspoon of sugar on my tongue
Pulling on my tongue
Pressing on my lip, right below the base of my nose
Gently rubbing my eyeballs

None of these techniques have worked very well, if at all. So I’ve suffered. For decades I’ve suffered. I can remember the time I got them while I was on the air at KLOL in Houston back in the early 80s.

Most of the time, my hiccups seem to be triggered by drainage from my sinuses irritating the back of my throat. This irritates the nerves that run from my neck down into my chest. (This drainage, by the way, sometimes turns into a sinus infection, which is usually followed by a voice actor’s worst nightmare.)

Laryngitis.

And yes, I use all the tricks my otolaryngologist (who specializes in voices) gave me to keep my sinuses clear: frequent saline rinses, steroid nasal sprays, expectorants, and antihistamines. But I still get about one infection a year in the allergy capital of South Texas.

Now, I’m not a doctor, and I’ve never played one in a voiceover script. (I have, however, done some medical narration.) But the research I’ve done has indicated that the culprit in my hiccups is the vagus nerve. In theory, if I calmed down the vagus nerve, I would make the hiccups go away. But how would I do that?

Last night, when I was up at 2 in the morning with yet another body-shaking case of the hiccups, I decided to search on the Internet for cures for the hiccups. Of course, I found all the ones mentioned above that haven’t done me any good.

But I also found a new, and somewhat crazy technique that I’d never used before, so I thought I’d try it.

IT WORKED!!!

My hiccups were gone in less than 15 seconds! This new technique worked at 2:00 am, it worked again when the hiccups woke me up at 4:30 am, and it worked yet again when they reared their ugly head after a major coughing fit at 5:00 the next afternoon.

So what do you need for this crazy, yet simple technique? Only six things :

  • A glass of cold water (ice water or refrigerator dispenser water, not room temperature water)
  • A straw
  • One finger from each hand
  • Both of your ears

Here’s what you do:

You know that little flap in front of the hole in your ear canal where the sound goes in? That’s called the tragus (or tragi, if you’re talking about both of them.) It’s the part with the piercing in it in this picture. What you want to do is take your fingers, press in on the tragi so that you stop up your ears and muffle the all the sound, and at the same time, drink the cold water through the straw. I’ve found that about 10 swallows of ice cold water is all it takes to make my hiccups vanish. Ten or fifteen seconds and the agony is OVER.

Again, I’m no doctor, and I may have the anatomy all wrong, but I do know that for the first time in 40 years, I’ve found a cure for the hiccups that consistently works for me.

I am beyond grateful. And I hope it works for you, too.

I just don’t know if it will work for that lady with the piercing. How’s she going to push in on her tragus with that barbell in the way?

Author: Greg Thomas

Greg Thomas is a 25-year veteran of the voiceover industry who specializes in e-Learning, corporate narration, and commercials. e-Learning clients have reported that his narration increased the liveliness and interactivity quotient of their courses. His deep, warm voice has been heard on thousands of projects for clients in the United States, Europe, and the Middle East, including Verizon, Irwin Vice Grips, DuPont Pioneer, and the New York Red Bulls Soccer Team. He also has ILT experience as a classroom trainer for a Fortune 100 company, and understands first-hand the importance of keeping training engaging and interesting. His studio is approved by the World Voices Organization, a member-driven international association of voice actors. You can reach Greg at greg@DeepWarmVoice.com. He usually responds within 24 hours.