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A Quiz: Test Your Vocal Health Smarts

This weekend, I will be attending the 2017 Voice Therapy Conference in Pittsburgh.  I am attending for two reasons.  First of all, I must get my Continuing Education credits to maintain my license to practice. Secondly, my absolute favorite part of speech pathology when I was in graduate school was in the area of voice.  I had a fabulous professor who got me hooked on the capabilities of our tiny instrument, the larynx.  I just loved to learn about the anatomy, diagnosing voice problems and helping patients learn to use their voices in better ways.

I still love to learn about our amazingly unique and complex larynx and I want to stay current with trends in techniques, so I am excited to attend!  Here are a few amazing facts that I found fascinating….

Did you know….

  • Your vocal cords are approximately 17-25 mm long (.75-1 inch in males) and 12.5-17.5 mm (.5-.75 in females)? They are elastic and stretch as you change your pitch. The mass, the length and the tension of your cords influence that pitch.
  • Your vocal cords vibrate at an exceptionally fast rate. An average number of vibrations for males is 110x per second and 220x per second for females. As you increase pitch, they can vibrate as fast as 1000x/second (but this is a very high pitched note).  To give you some perspective, here is an interesting comparison… a hummingbird beats its wings 10-15 times per second.
  • When you hydrate appropriately, the moisture inside your mouth acts like a natural vaporizer to keep your vocal cords moist. That is just one reason why staying hydrated is so important.
  • When you swallow, you protect yourself from food and drink from going into your lungs by closing your vocal cords. Additionally, your epiglottis (a laryngeal cartilage at the base of your tongue) covers your vocal cords so that nothing goes to your lungs. Pretty cool, huh?  That’s why it’s important not to talk while eating (you’ll be unprotected).
  • The sound you make at the level of your cords is shaped by your vocal tract to make the sounds you create. Do you want to see how the vocal tract shapes sounds? Watch two short movies that show someone speaking as if they were being viewed through x-ray.  Don’t miss watching a third video of four people singing a quartet and you can see what their vocal cords are doing while they sing. You are viewing them through a laryngeal scope.
  • Finally, when you exert physical effort (bearing down, lifting weights, etc.) you squeeze your vocal cords together so that air is trapped and this gives you a mechanical advantage to exert more force (compared to having your airway open).

All of this happens without you even thinking about it.  See how amazing this little instrument is?

I’ve created a quiz to help you determine your vocal health and to assess your risk for losing your voice.  If you can score 9 or 10, you are in great shape!


World Voice Day is April 16th.

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About the Author Lynda Stucky

Lynda Stucky coaches mid-senior level executives on using their speech and voice effectively to establish credibility, position themselves within their company, and enhance their reputation as a topic authority. She provides training through one-on-one coaching and online courses to reduce foreign accents, “redd-up” regional accents, and teach speech and voice branding for image control. She is President of ClearlySpeaking, and is a certified and licensed speech-language pathologist. She is the author of "Voice Branding for Executives: How to Align Your Speech, Language, and Voice Skills with Your Professional Goals." Her background in speech pathology offers unique skills for dealing with professional communication skills in the corporate world. She believes communication skills should not hold anyone back from achieving personal and professional goals.

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