Can I still use speech recognition when I have a cold?


It is a question that I get regularly: “What if I get a cold? Can I still dictate and use speech commands in my speech recognition program?

Will your computer understand you?

Obviously, if your voice is really hoarse or you’ve lost your voice completely, the speech recognition won’t understand you anymore. But even if circumstances are less dire, Dragon speech recognition or Apple voice control and a sore throat or a stuffed nose don’t mix well.

If you take care to enunciate the words clearly, you could probably still get some fair recognition results while dictating, even if your voice isn’t quite as clear as it normally is. But you’ll certainly notice poorer results than usual.

Moreover, in my experience it is really unpleasant to use speech recognition when suffering from a cold.

Even if I CAN, should I still use my voice to control the computer?

Thoughts on health

Suppose you have sprained your ankle. And suppose it hurts when you put your weight on your foot. The wise thing to do is to take it easy with the sore ankle. You postpone the nature hike you had planned and you find a place to sit down whenever you can. Perhaps you even need to keep your ankle elevated to reduce swelling.

If you don’t take proper care of it, it may take longer for your ankle to heal. Perhaps you could even make your injury worse than it originally was.

So what about a throat that is red and swollen due to a bad cold? Could it be harmful if you just ‘push through’ and keep on dictating to your computer like nothing is wrong? I honestly don’t know. I’m not a doctor and I am not an expert, but personally I wouldn’t risk it.

My voice is very important to me. Issues with my voice would prevent me from running my business. I couldn’t use speech recognition, which I need because of my repetitive strain injury. Also I could not train my clients if I could not use my voice.

I always imagine having a cold as having ‘sprained vocal cords’. And – like with a sprained ankle – I try not to tax my voice any more than absolutely necessary.

I avoid long phone calls and other situations where I would have to speak a lot. And I also try to reduce my use of my speech recognition software, until my voice is getting better. And then I drink lots of water and honeyed tea and take lozenges and rest. Basically anything to take care of myself until my voice is back to its normal self.

Admittedly, I won’t actually cancel any client appointments unless I am really feeling very sick. My clients deserve my reliability.

Thoughts on technology

If you’re using Apple Voice Control, there is no problem. It can learn your custom words, but doesn’tdo much to learn from how you speak. That means that if you speak differently due to a cold, you’re not messing anything up.

As of Dragon 15 the program will automatically save your user profile when closing Dragon. That means that if you dictate with a different-than-normal voice, these properties of your voice will be saved by dragon. This could negatively impact your recognition. If you do not want that to happen, read the procedure to make a copy of your profile via Tools -> Manage User Profiles -> Advanced -> Export and give it a distinctive name e.g. “<yourname> with a cold”. Unfortunately this is not an available option for the Dragon Home version.

Do you have tips on caring for your voice?

Please go ahead and share that in the comments!


Janneke den Draak

Janneke den Draak

Hi, I'm Janneke and I'm your go-to person for Dragon and Apple speech recognition software help.

When I got severe repetitive strain injury issues over 20 years ago, I didn't want to give up using the computer. So I learned all about controlling the PC with speech recognition and dictating my documents and emails.

I've now been a speech recognition software trainer and consultant for almost two decades, teaching over 2000 people handsfree productivity!

My online courses for Apple Voice Control and Dragon offer self-paced learning and I also love running my membership for Dragon users. For those in need of an intensive training or custom speech command creation, I am available for one-on-one calls.

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