How is voice produced?
Voice is any sound that is produced by our vocal folds including yelling, shouting, screaming, babbling, talking and singing. The voice box (larynx) is where the vocal folds are situated. The larynx is also referred to as the voice-generating system. Vocal folds are twin mucous membrane infoldings that are stretched across the larynx. Voice (or vocalisation) is the sound produced when air travels from the lungs through the vocal folds in the larynx, or voice box. The human voice conveys information about the speaker through features such as: pitch, loudness, resonance, quality and flexibility.
Good breath support is essential for adequate voice production; without this, we cannot generate or produce sufficient voice. When we breathe in our vocal folds are abducted (apart), however as we exhale, our vocal folds come to midline (adduct) to generate sounds. As we inhale, the air generated from the lungs creates an air pressure beneath the vocal folds (subglottic pressure), when the air pressure below the vocal folds exceeds the air above the vocal folds a burst of air escapes through the folds causing them to vibrate. As the air rapidly flows through the larynx, it creates a decreased pressure (a phenomenon called the Venturi effect) and the vocal folds are brought together. This process of rapid opening and closing produces vocal fold vibration. Each time the vocal folds open they produce a jet of air which creates a rapid change in air pressure that produces the sounds we use to communicate.
What are the symptoms of voice disorders?
The symptoms of voice disorders vary depending on the type of voice difficulty. Generally, the onset of symptoms is gradual, with short episodes of symptoms experienced; however, this can become a problem if eventually these symptoms occur more frequently/consistently (i.e. symptoms experienced all the time).
Dysphonia is a term given to disorders of the voice. Essentially, the term dysphonia refers to the inability to produce sounds using the vocal organs. Dysphonia has either organic or functional causes due to impairment of any one of the vocal organs. However, typically it is caused by some kind of interruption of the ability of the vocal folds to vibrate normally during exhalation. So it is most often observed in the production of vowel sounds.
What to look out for:
- Rough, hoarse or raspy voice
- Breathy or husky voice
- Reduced vocal volume
- Changes to voice pitch
- Pain or discomfort in the throat
- A tight ‘choking’ sensation when using voice
- A feeling of a ‘lump’ in the throat
- Increase fatigue and effort associated with increased voice use
- Complete loss of voice
Contact us for results focused speech therapy
This article was written by our speech pathologist Eugene Pillay who is a Speech Pathology Australia member.
If you have questions about voice production or for results focused speech therapy, contact your local doctor who will arrange for you to see a speech pathologist in Sydney. We‘ll provide you with a simple, efficient and very effective routine targeted to your concerns.
- Boone, D.R., McFarlane, S.C., & Von Berg, S.L. (2005). The voice and voice therapy (7th ed.). USA: Pearson Education Inc.
- Colton, R.H., & Casper, J.K. (1996). Understanding voice problems: A physiological perspective for diagnosis and treatment (2nd ed.). USA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.
- Duffy, J. (2005). Motor Speech Disorders: Substrates, Differential Diagnosis and Management. (2nd ed.). Missouri: Elsevier Mosby.