How To Keep Your Voice Young?by Jonathan Wilson Health Consultant
Try humming daily, and saying “banana”… Practice vowel-rich words and phrases, such as ‘Amazon’, ‘banana’ and ‘lullaby baby’, to cultivate resonance.
Next time you’re on the phone with a stranger, try guessing that person’s age. If you get to meet the person later, you’ll probably find that your hunch was fairly accurate. As people age, their voices naturally mature. But longevity doesn’t have to bring with it a hoarse croak or feeble whisper. Increasingly, voice specialists are finding that proper care can keep the voice vigorous at any age.
Most “symptoms” of vocal aging first appear after age 50 and become more noticeable as the years pass. Male voices typically become higher in pitch, while the female voice tends to deepen. Some voices take on a harsh tone, developing what might be described as a “creaky quality”, while others begin to thin and weaken.
Today, a growing number of scientists is studying age-related changes in the larynx. Located in mid-throat, the larynx houses the principal sound-producing instruments – two multi-layered ribbons of tissue, called vocal cords, that are normally elastic and drawn tightly together. Sound is produced when pressure changes force air through the opening between the vocal cords (or vocal folds) and set them vibrating.
Many of the symptoms of vocal aging can be traced to a weakening of the vocal cords. Like an overused guitar string, around the sixth decade of life the vocal cords become thinner and lose their youthful spring, no longer snapping together tightly after a puff of air has passed through. Eventually, this may cause a quavering voice or a breathy one lacking volume.
Some speech pathologists suggest that the normal rise in pitch in the male voice is also related to the thinning and loss of elasticity in the vocal cords. These changes speed the rate at which the cords vibrate, which in turn raises the pitch of the voice. The female larynx undergoes similar but less pronounced changes. However, these are counterbalanced by the fact that the female body tends to accumulate fluids following menopause, so the tissues that make up the vocal cords swell. Ticker tissue vibrates more slowly, which slightly deepens the pitch of the aging female voice and reduces its range.
Also, around age 50, the water content of the throat’s lubricating mucus begins to dwindle, increasing the chances of friction between the vocal folds. If the vocal folds rub against each other, you are likely to get trauma, just like rubbing would cause a blister on your heel. This can result in a voice that sounds hoarse or breathy.
STEPS TO VOCAL FITNESS
However, you can keep vocal aging at bay by taking good care of both your body and your vocal machinery, experts say. Roberta Peters, who reigned as diva at the Metropolitan Opera in New York for 38 years, was a stunning example of the benefits of both general physical and vocal fitness.
The slim soprano is a far cry from the stereotypical obese opera star and had always included rigorous physical exercise as part of her vocal fitness routine. “If you have good physical control, you have good vocal control,” said Peters, who worked out aerobically three times a week. Experts agree with Peters’ prescription. “A person’s general level of fitness is probably the single most important factor in the vitality of the voice,” said Joel Kahane, Ph.D., associate professor in audiology and speech pathology at Memphis State University. Air power is crucial for voice production; if lack of exercise weakens the muscles that operate the lungs, the voice can lose its vigour.
Peter was careful to avoid activities that could take a toll on her voice, such as trying to speak above the noise of a crowd. “Cocktail parties are a menace,” she said. “You strain all the muscles in the throat.”
Other sources of strain on the voice are cigarette smoke and chronic exposure to air pollution.
Because she believed in the benefits of keeping her throat moist, Peters always requested a pot of warm tea in her dressing room. Kahane recommended eight to ten glasses of fluids each day to anyone who regularly uses his or her voice strenuously. Fluids can be warm or cold, Kahane said, but not caffeinated because the latter’s diuretic effect robs the body of moisture.
The final ingredient in Peter’s recipe for vocal longevity was faithful vocal exercise. Although “vocalrobics,” as vocal exercise has been dubbed, is just now becoming a hot area in voice research, vocal coaches have sworn by it for years. “Proper exercise can help preserve a youthful voice,” says Jeffery Jacobi, a voice coach with a School of Music. He prescribes a series of vocal calisthenics that includes sustained humming, which helps develop the resonance that gives a voice a strong, rich quality. Hum five to ten minutes a day, says Jacobi; it can be done at any free moment – for example, while showering, getting dressed or walking. He also recommends practicing vowel-rich words and phrases, such as Amazon, banana and lullaby baby, to cultivate resonance. Start out pronouncing the words slowly and build up speed until you reach a normal speaking rate, he advises. And always warm up with single words before moving on to the phrases.
Jacobi claims great success working with singers, actors and business executives on age-related voice problems. One of his clients, a man in his sixties, reported that after he had done vocal exercises for just three weeks, his daughter didn’t recognize his voice when he telephoned her – she thought she was speaking with a much younger man. Jacobi suggests that a qualified speech pathologist can also help extend the range of a voice that has experienced severe age-related changes in pitch.
For those who suffer vocal aging – breathiness or quaver caused when the vocal cords no longer close tightly – a still-experimental treatment is offering hope. Five years ago, otolaryngologist Charles Ford, M.D., of the University of Wisconsin Medical School pioneered the technique of injecting the vocal cords with collagen, a natural structural protein. “Collagen resculpturing” can help restore some of the vocal folds. After anaesthetizing the vocal cords, a physician inserts a long needle down the throat to inject collagen directly into the vocal cords. Patients experience only minor discomfort and some swelling at the site of the injection for several hours. The procedure benefits are reported to last several years.
All this should be good news for those who will soon be on the cusp of their sixth decade – and the start of vocal aging. Better than any generation before them, they should be able to hold on to vigorous, youthful speech.
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Created on Nov 11th 2018 20:54. Viewed 280 times.