Treating a Whistled S

By Pam Marshalla

Q: My client started with a frontal lisp. Now he is now producing a “Whistling S.” How do I correct this?

A whistling S usually is an S that is being made in just the right place that whistling occurs. Simply have your client begin to move his tongue-tip higher or lower, slightly more forward or back, or slightly more to the left or right as he prolongs his S. You are searching for the place that works to alleviate the whistle and achieve the best sound quality on S for him. That is all a matter of trial and error. You are training his ear to hear the fine differences that occur in the sound quality as he moves his tongue-tip by millimeters at a time in one direction and then another.

12 thoughts on “Treating a Whistled S”

  1. Hello.
    I was searching for information about whistled S and found this website.
    I had this problem started last year, after I got 4 porcelain veneers on my frontal upper teeth. I didn’t have a whistled S at all, and I realised it few minutes after leaving the dentist.
    I’ve tried many things, like making the veneers thinner, shorter, and even replacing them.. I tried a speech therapy for some time too, but nothing seems to help.
    Do you have any information about this? I’d really appreciatte if you could help me.
    Thanks a lot,

    1. A whistled S is changed not by changing the teeth but by changing tongue position. You have to move your tongue slowly and gently and in very very tiny increments while listening very hard to find that perfect spot where the whistling disappears. There is no way to tell you how to do this other than that because each person has to adjust their tongue in a way that is unique to them.

      I am really surprised that an SLP was not able to help you with this. If you need help try to find an older therapist who has been doing old-time articulation therapy for a long time.

  2. Hello PAM M, thanks a lot for your reply.

    The problem is exactly that: there is not spot where the whistling disappears. I’ve tried all possible tongue positions, lips articulations, ways of blowing the air, and I never got any satisfying sound. The professionals I worked with are really good and experienced, but after some time they just started trying to convince me my speech is ok. But it’s not. It’s nothing near to those whistles of some people who wear dentures but it’s definatelly not right.

    I do believe the teeth itself may be the cause, I’ve read a lot about thickness, lenght and incision position having an influence on this.. and also for dentures, sometimes the thickness of the palate (rugae area) is the direct cause. But we still haven’t worked it out.

    As for the link you sent me, is it correct? The link brings it back to this page!

    Thanks a lot,


  3. What really bothers me is that the whistled sound happens EVEN with the mouth open. It is the sound it makes when the air gets in contact with the veneers.
    Sometimes I wonder.. is it the material itself (porcelain)? Could it be fixed by making the shape of the teeth on the backside exactly like a natural one? Because mine seems to be FLAT on the backside.

  4. Hi Renê, did you figure this out? Everything you’ve written makes perfect sense to me because I’m going through it. It’s exactly as you describe, after getting veneers on my two upper front teeth. I make my living by recording and this is a disaster.

    1. Lee what have you figured out? I also work as a voice over actor and have noticed some whistling and added sibilance since pulling a tooth due to overcrowding and starting to use invisalign trays to straighten my teeth. It’s not terrible yet, but it’s concerning me as I can hear the whistling a bit on my S’s which is picked by a sensitive microphone even more.

  5. This happened to me after some dental work. Played with tongue positions but nothing really eliminated it. Then I tried mouth shapes and found saying S with a slight smile eliminated the problem immediately! So I just keep a slight smile whenever I say anything – zero whistles and I think I look better too!

    1. Walt, thank you for this information. I started searching on this topic a few weeks ago and didn’t realize until I came across your answer that this is what makes the difference for me as well! I previously thought it was luck, but I now see exactly what I was doing.

  6. Hey! I’m a fourteen year old girl who has been struggling with confidence because of this near-lisp. I had a lateral lisp when I was younger, went to speech therapy at my public school but since I used to struggle in math and they didn’t want to keep pulling me from class they just gave up. I’ve been trying to fix it myself, but I just found out that it’s because my tongue is thick, and the back is hitting the roof of my mouth, just like when you whistle. I commented partly because I need help compensating for this problem and working around it to make them sound normal, especially because I’m starring in the school play and I don’t want to go on stage with it even though I’ve been in plays before. But I also wanted to let other people who have the same problem as me locate where this sound is coming from. Thanks for reading my comment all the way through. Good luck on this and know you aren’t alone.

  7. I have misophonia. It’s a debilitating condition literally meaning the hatred of sound. High pitch frequencies have a negative effect on the human brain and I think it’s our defense mechanism to defend against high pitch frequencies. Snake sounds, bug sounds, birds, all can produce these high pitch sounds.

    Learning to speak properly is necessary. I cannot stand the sound of whistling letter s. It actually causes pain. Because I have a hyper sensitivity to sound, every time I hear a whistling letter s it’s like listening to nails on a chalkboard. Just imagine it. Every day, everywhere. And lately it seems like more and more people are doing it. Keyboard typing sounds also bother me.

Leave a comment!

Keep the conversation going! Your email address will not be published.