What is Puberphonia?
Puberphonia is a psychogenic voice disorder, in which vocal quality is disturbed due to psychological reasons. As such, there are no structural or functional causes that manifest or give rise to the occurrence of this type of voice disorder. Puberphonia refers to the unusually high-pitched vocal quality that males may experience due to hormonal changes that occur during puberty, to which a voice change is expected to take place. Generally, at puberty the vocal folds increase in length due to the enlargement of the male’s cricothyroid notch (Adams Apple). The aetiology of puberphonia may include emotional stress, embarrassment of a new sounding voice secondary to changes associated with puberty, social immaturity, excessive maternal protection or a desire to maintain a soprano/falsetto vocal quality when singing/speaking.
Symptoms of Puberphonia
Dysphonia is a term given to disorders of the voice. Essentially the term refers to the inability to produce adequate sound using the vocal mechanism. People with puberphonia may experience:
- High pitch/falsetto-like sounding voice
- A breathy vocal quality
- Laryngeal tension (may or may not be present)
- Pitch breaks when speaking
- Hoarseness of voice
- Inadequate resonance
- Lack of variability in vocal quality
Consultation with an ENT should be sort first. The ENT will perform an examination of the larynx to assess the structure and function of the vocal folds. The ENT will then refer a patient to a Speech Pathologist who will provide therapy to lessen the symptoms of puberphonia and optimise vocal quality and production. The Speech Pathologist will ideally work directly with the patient by teaching them voice exercises encouraged to lower their pitch to accommodate a more natural sounding voice.
Boone, D.R. & McFarlane, S.C. (2000). The Voice and Voice Therapy. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice Hill.
Colton, R.H., & Casper, J.K. (1996). Understanding voice problems: A physiological perspective for diagnosis and treatment (2nd ed.). USA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.