One hot potato

20140221-182240.jpgI love science.

Today, Dr. Awesome*, myself, and an NP student were discussing something called “hot potato voice” – specifically, whether use of the term is limited to patients with peritonsillar abscess, or could also be used to describe patients with particularly gnarly cases of tonsillitis.

Imagine you decided to stick a few jumbo-sized marbles in the back of your mouth.

Or, if you will, a potato. Maybe even a hot one.

Then, imagine yourself trying to pretend like there’s nothing amiss when your friend, mom, the cashier at Starbucks, whoever decides to chat you up about the weather.

Not so easy, right?

Trying to talk when you have one or two enormous, angry tonsils sounds kind of like that. (Except with more pain and sadness.)

For some reason, at some point in time**, the term “hot potato voice” started being used to describe this super special sound. So much so that nowadays, it’s just one of those things health care providers do without thinking much about it.

As NP Student and myself are going back and forth with some uninspiring blahblahblah, Dr. Awesome consults Dr. Google and finds this:

Mahmood F. Bhutta, George A. Worley, Meredydd L. Harries (2006). “Hot Potato Voice” in Peritonsillitis: A Misnomer. J Voice, 20:4, pp 616-622.

I love everything about this.

I love that someone was sitting in their office one day and said, “What is UP with ‘hot potato voice’? Puh-lease! I’d bet good money (that I don’t have, since I’m a voice researcher) that someone with an ACTUAL hot potato in their mouth wouldn’t sound anything like these people with peritonsillitis.”

I love that this person didn’t let their contempt for “hot potato voice” end there, and instead started digging through the existing literature to discover that WHAT!? Has NO ONE bothered to prove what people with actual hot potatoes in their mouths sound like??

Sounds like a knowledge gap right there! IRB TIME.

Next thing you know, you’re taping and analyzing and comparing voice recordings of people with peritonsillitis with those of healthy subjects (aka you and your pals from the lab, who are presumably as amused by all this as you are) holding whole microwaved potatoes in the back of their mouths.

Et voila. Legit, published, peer-reviewed research proving that you were right all along. NOT THE SAME. (Drops mic, walks away.)

Thank you, hot potato skeptic. Thank you for making my day, WAIT NO my entire existence, a little brighter.

*not her real name. BUT IT SHOULD BE.

**disclaimer: not a medical historian. Clearly.


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