We all know that the voice we’re born with isn’t the same at the end of our life. The human voice is a marvellous thing that undergoes radical change throughout the years, most obviously in the case of teenage boys when the voice becomes deeper, taking on a more adult characteristic. However, this isn’t the only change, it’s just the most dramatic. Below are a few more ways the voice can shift.
- Vocal asthenia is the phenomena where the voice becomes thinner sounding. This occurs when the body’s muscle tissue begins to break down. This includes the fibres that make up the vocal cords. They become less pliable and physically thinner, creating less power. This is most obvious in male singers – except Tom Jones, he seems to have not missed a step.
This changes usually begins at around the age of 60, though vocal training can delay this onset and make it less pronounced.
- The projection and volume of a singing voice can drop in older age. We’ve spoken before about singing as a cardio exercise, and just as athletes find themselves losing endurance, singers find the same. Even though many older people regularly engage in exercise to maintain their lung capacity, many will find their respiratory system compromised, resulting in a loss of breath support.
- Voices can take on a rougher quality due to vocal cords becoming stiffer. This is caused by age, as well as activities like smoking or problems like acid reflux. The result of this is that the cords can bow apart rather than vibrating closely together.
- In later life, the male and female voices become more similar in pitch. A woman’s pitch will drop, while a man’s voice will actually rise. There is no definite cause of this however suspects include atrophy of the muscles and hormonal changes during the menopause.
So what does this all mean?
There is evidence that suggests those who have more trouble making themselves heard will be less assertive or speak in social situations. This creates a social isolation which can lead to depression.
So is there a solution? Fortunately, vocal training can actually reduce the impact of these changes and even postpone their onset. While it may not be the magic cure-all we’d like, singing practice could be a great addition to stop the voice degrading and build social links.
But what if I’m already singing?
Don’t be alarmed at these changes, they’re entirely natural. Don’t feel you have to push yourself and risk injurying your voice. We sing for fun above all else and putting pressure on yourself to hold onto a voice you might not have anymore isn’t going to help.