Posted by: balladofyoko | January 26, 2008

Ear, Nose, and Throat

I came down with a cold a couple weeks ago– the first I’ve had in a while. Now that I have no tonsils, the first line of defense seems to be the nasal sinuses– I got congested pretty quickly. Based on the recommendations of the Rizz and Ten Feet, I tried jala neti. While it wasn’t a miracle cure, it did help with easing the congestion. And, I dare say, it feels rather soothing.

Another consequence from the tonsillectomy is that I now have a slight velopharyngeal insufficiency. This means my soft palate does not properly close the airway between my nose and my throat. While during my daily routine, I don’t notice this all too much (although there are times when drinking beverages, the liquid backs up into my nose, causing me to choke), when I play clarinet, I have problems breathing into the instrument properly. I get a sensation akin to snoring as I’m playing. I had an appointment with a speech pathologist today, and she gave me exercises to strengthen the soft palate muscle. I’m continuing to practice the clarinet, although in shorter bouts, and am working on changing my embouchure to adjust for the physical change. I hope to gradually become more comfortable with playing the clarinet again.

Update [1/27/2008]: Looks like problems with the soft palate and playing wind instruments aren’t so rare. A Google search for “velopharyngeal + clarinet” came up with quite a few scholarly articles, among them, this one.



  1. Hm, I’d never considered that tonsil removal would have these unforeseen effects. I still have mine and luckily don’t have problems with them.

    Yes, the neti pot helps a lot but of course is not a miracle. Although falling asleep is much more comfortable for me now, I still wake up in the morning with bad congestion, though it clears up quickly after I use the neti pot. Last weekend, I thought the neti pot had stopped working entirely. But then I developed a fever, and I realized that I was sick–I had caught a cold, and the cold, not allergies/dust sensitivity, was causing the extra stubborn congestion.

    As it turns out, a lot of people I know have recently caught a really severe cold that lingers on and on. Mine cleared up in a couple of days. At first I thought it was coincidental, but then I read this:

    Maybe the irrigation helped reduce the severity of the cold? My colds are usually pretty slow to go away, so it’s definitely possible.

  2. Oh dear! I hope you can play again soon!


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