You may know a Chatty Cathy… and a fast talker, a sweet talker, a smooth talker, and an old yeller.
But did you know that your sound is unique? Do you think it’s strange that vocal cords aren’t even cords? Would you like to learn the secret to all secrets? Then stick with us ’til the end, listen carefully, and learn to love your voice…within reason.
Maybe you can walk the walk, but can you talk the talk? You see, your voice is unlike any other. And its unique characteristics are determined by a variety of factors, such as height, weight, hormones, emotions, and environment.
Like an audible fingerprint, your voice is the sound of your identity. So, are you true to your word?
First things first, your vocal cords aren’t cords. They’re actually folds of mucous membrane that stretch horizontally across your larynx. When you speak, air comes up from your lungs and causes your vocal folds to vibrate and produce sound.
Males have larger vocal folds than females do, which is the first component to determining the frequency of your voice. The bigger your vocal folds, the deeper your voice.
During puberty, vocal folds grow larger in both men and women, making us sound all grown up. But male larynxs grow bigger, and their voices get deeper thanks to all the extra testosterone they produce.
Of course, there’s more to voice than just the high and low. Genetics, emotions, habits, and environment also have a role to play in determining your unique sound.
If you’ve ever answered the phone and been mistaken for another relative, don’t take it personally. The reason you sound a bit like your other family members is because laryngeal anatomy is passed on from your parents.
If something doesn’t sound right to you, ask yourself how you feel. Your emotional state changes your voice. Anxiety, for example, puts tension on the vocal folds, which is what makes our voices high and shaky when we get nervous.
Your voice goes back to normal once the feeling subsides, but some high-strung people might experience a more permanent change, as their voice adapts to their regular mental state.
If you think a drink or a smoke might calm you down, it won’t relax your voice. In fact, alcohol and tobacco strains your throat muscles, and will make your voice raspier over time.
Lots of yelling will yield the same result. And so will air pollution or living in a really dry climate. So your voice reveals where you come from, who you come from, and how you live your life.
And like identity itself, it continues to change as you grow older. In your old age, your vocal folds are worn out from years of use. Your voice grows softer, thinner, and shakier.
Interestingly, at this late stage in life, a man’s voice usually becomes higher while a woman’s voice deepens. You might say talk is cheap, but don’t speak too soon.