Nasal or Denasal – Do You Know the Difference?


A couple of years ago I wrote about nasality and denasality. Many people get them confused so I’d like to go over it again because of an email I recently received from a man named Paul who lives in England. He wrote:

“Just read one of your articles on getting rid of a nasally sound in your voice. Didn’t think it was a nice opening saying about how frustrating it is listening to someone with a nasally voice, followed by how a study proves this. I’ve suffered all my life with this problem. I’ve tried voice training, allergy tests, and most recently consultations with nose specialists. Turns out I have abnormally narrow nasal passages, which there is nothing I can do about apart from surgery I can’t afford. So I’m stuck with it. Thanks for knocking my confidence even lower, hope you never get stuck with a ‘whiny’ voice.”

Nasality is too much sound coming through the nose; denasality, on the other hand, is the opposite.

1. Paul says he has abnormally narrow nasal passages. From my experience, when one has such a condition (or a deviated septum, for example), the result is that too little – if any – air is travelling though the nasal passages. The sound that results is referred to as denasality. It is the same thing you experience when you have a cold or allergies. Incidentally, denasality is not an offensive sound. It is a somewhat congested sound. There is a man who does voiceovers for commercials in the US who has a most obvious denasal sound.

2. If Paul actually does have excessive nasality, he can easily overcome the problem by producing his words along the floor of his mouth and avoiding his nose. It is also important to note that we do not have the ability to hear ourselves correctly because the sound we hear in our head is distorted – sound vibrating in the solid and liquid of the brain. Paul’s inner ear may be telling him that he has a whiny voice when it is possible that his recorded voice would tell him something different.

3. Were Paul to discover his ‘real’ voice, it would be much easier for him to avoid his nasal passages when speaking because the sound coming from the chest cavity really doesn’t want to be detoured through the nose on its way out.

Denasality is not a problem. Excessive nasality is. Yes, if you are nasal, it might be in your best interest to work on eliminating that sound because too much nasality is like nails scratching on a blackboard and that is not a good thing!