Whistling is usually only a means of attracting attention or communicating a short, simple message. However, it can be a challenging skill to master.
Wondering, why can’t I whistle? Difficulty with whistling can also stem from psychological factors, such as anxiety (overperforming or being judged for the potential mistakes) or fear (of causing physical harm).
Whistling is often viewed as a skill reserved for adults and older children because it requires coordination of both lips and fingers. However, younger children (and even infants) can learn to whistle if taught properly and in a calm environment.
A person can learn how to whistle at any age, but the ability is learned much easier when young. However, it can be difficult to do so as an adult. Why can’t I whistle?
Why Can’t I Whistle?
There are many reasons why one may not whistle, including physical issues, such as polyps on the vocal cords. Injuries to the face or mouth can also cause problems when learning to whistle.
There are several reasons why you can’t whistle:
- Your lower lip sticks out too far and gets in the way of your upper teeth or tongue
- Your mouth shape has recently changed due to dental work or an injury
- You’re not making a strong enough air stream
- Your tongue is blocking the way
Dental Work Done
It can be difficult to whistle when you have had dental work done. This could be due to stitches in your mouth or even extraction of one or more teeth that may change the shape of your mouth.
Wearing a Retainer or Aligner
A whistle is a sound produced by “blowing” air through a small hole. It is quite a simple process: air moves through the hole vibrates over the lips and the tongue and creates the distinctive sound we call a whistle.
Because your retainer or aligner touches the roof of your mouth or seals your lips, there is no way for air to move through them to create a whistle.
This means that you would need to blow directly into the hole to create the necessary vibrations for a whistle, which would not only produce an unpleasant sound for everyone around you but is also impossible without a hole.
Haven’t Practiced Whistling for a Long Time
Like any other skill, Whistling takes time and effort to learn to do well. Just like it might take you a long time to learn a language or play an instrument, it will take some time for you to learn how to whistle.
One thing that helps with learning how to whistle is practicing every day. You should choose a spot in your house where you’ll always be alone, then spend a few minutes a day practicing your whistling.
Trying Too Hard to Whistle
If you’ve tried to whistle, you’ll know how it works: You’re just walking around minding your own business, and suddenly, you feel the urge to whistle. So, you do! And maybe it sounds okay—perhaps it even sounds great!
Then another time or two goes by, and you try to whistle again, but this time it sounds awful. It’s like the more effort you put into it, the worse you say.
This is because when you’re trying hard, it actually feels like your mouth is doing less work. But in reality, your teeth are clenched together so tightly that they can’t vibrate properly.
You’re also not opening your mouth quite as wide as you should be (which means less air is flowing through).
This causes your lips to make a much shallower seal than they should be making (which means there’s less chance of a good tone).
Not Using the Right Technique
The ability to whistle is an enjoyable and useful skill that many people learn as children.
However, if you are like most people and have not yet been able to master the skill, there is nothing to worry about. A very specific technique must be used for whistling to be possible.
Wet your lips: You should always make sure that your lips are wet before starting. If they are dry, you may end up doing damage. This can be easily remedied by using a lip balm.
However, petroleum-based lip balms can sometimes have an adverse effect on the whistle, so stick with natural ingredients like beeswax and jojoba oil.
Pause for a second: Take a moment to pause both before and after your whistle. This isn’t just used for dramatic effect—it is imperative that the pause comes after the whistle and before the next one. The pause will help bring out the full range of your whistle tone.
Experiencing Facial Trauma
Facial trauma can prevent you from whistling. The trauma may result in difficulty performing such tasks as whistling, which requires proper muscle functioning of the face.
Facial trauma may be caused by playing sports wearing a too-large helmet for the head or the impact of a projectile, such as a football.
Facial trauma often results in injury to the muscles and bones of the face and may cause disfigurement that requires surgery or other corrective procedures to repair.
Mouth Shape Has Changed
Your mouth can change shape over time, so you may not be able to whistle anymore.
You might have whistled when you were younger, but your mouth changes as you age. When the muscles around the lips and tongue weaken, they don’t make a tight seal around the mouth.
The shape of your mouth also changes because you lose some of the muscle in your cheeks. The result is that you may have trouble making a tight seal around your lips, and you may find it difficult to whistle.
If you think your mouth has changed shape and affects your ability to whistle, talk with your dentist or doctor about treatments that can help.
When you feel stressed or anxious, whistling can help you feel better. Many people feel calmer when they hear their whistling.
You do not need to have a perfect pitch to reap the benefits of whistling—just practice hearing the different pitches and tones while whistling.
Just remember to make sure that your surroundings are appropriate for whistling before you begin.
Some people claim that whistling helps them let go of anxiety and relax by creating a soothing sound vibration in their stomachs and chests (even though it may sound harsh at first).
There is also evidence suggesting that emitting sounds with your mouth positively affects your brain’s neurons.
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