The human voice is extraordinary, sensitive and complex. It is able to convey not only subtle emotional nuances, but also complex intellectual concepts. Although the uniqueness and beauty of the human voice have been appreciated for centuries, medical researchers began to seriously work and to take care of human voice in the late seventies and early eighties.
The sound that is named voice is the result of interactions among many body parts. The larynx is important for normal voice production, but production of voice is not restricted to the larynx. The entire vocal mechanism involves the back and abdominal muscles, ribs, lungs, pharynx, oral and nasal cavity. Each part of the mechanism performs an important function in production of voice, although it is possible to produce voice without larynx, for example in patients who have undergone laryngectomy (removal of the larynx) due to laryngeal cancer.
The creation of voice
Voice production starts in the cerebral cortex. Many centers in the brain are involved in sending appropriate impulses to the nerves and muscles that are responsible for phonation. Phonics (the use vocal cords to create voice) requires interaction between the power source, oscillator and resonators. At the beginning of each phonation cycle vocal cords are connected. When the air pressure builds up, they separate and then close again.
The voice is produced during the closure of the vocal cords, similar to the sound produced in clapping.
The sound created with the help of the vocal cords is a complex tone. It Passes through the supraglottic vocal tract, pharynx, oral and nasal cavity and acts as a series of interconnected resonators.
The role of the larynx in the creation of voice
The larynx is a structure in the neck, consisting of four basic anatomical units: intrinsic muscles, the external muscle, the skeleton, and mucosa. The most important parts of the laryngeal skeleton are the two arytenoid cartilages and the thyroid, cricoid cartilage. Cartilages are connected by muscles of the larynx. One of the intrinsic muscles (in the larynx), musculus vocalis (part of the thyroarytenoid muscle), extends on either side of the arytenoid cartilage to the inside of the thyroid cartilage just below and behind the Adam’s apple, forming the body of the vocal cords. Vocal cords act as oscillator or source of voice of the vocal tract. The space between the vocal cords is called the glottis. The inner muscles alter the position, shape and tension of the vocal cords, bringing them together (adduction), bringing them apart (abduction) or stretching them.
Aritenoide are also able to rotate and slide, and so allow complex movement of vocal cords and altering their edges. All of the muscles except one on each side of the larynx are innervated by one of the two recurrent laryngeal nerves. The so-called “false” vocal cords are located above the true vocal cords, and unlike the true ones they do not make contact during speech or singing.
Mucosa is a soft tissue that forms a thin surface that lubricates the vocal cords and makes contact when the two come together.
By educating ourselves, we learn how to protect our voice and maintain it healthy. Even a small exercise helps the voice a lot. It is important to avoid abuses and smoke. Collaboration among laryngologist, speech therapist, singing teachers, acting teachers and other professionals, especially those of us who use the voice professionally, has revolutionized the opinions regarding voice of the early ’80s. Technological advances, scientific discoveries and new medical techniques have led to a new level of expertise and interest in the medical professions and also to dramatic improvement of the level of care available for every patient with voice problems.
We should be careful and take care of our voice as it is means to represent us to others and to distinguish us from others.