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101 Facts About Ageing #8: How The Voice Changes With Age

Posted on 10 July 2021

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As Daniel Patrick Moynihan, an American sociologist, politician, and diplomat once said: “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts”. And we wholeheartedly agree. A shared set of facts is the first step to building a better world with longevity for all. In that spirit, we are creating a series that covers 101 indisputable facts about ageing, health and longevity.

It is usually easy to tell the difference between the voice of a young person and an older person. The age related change in how a person’s voice sounds is called presbyphonia. The symptoms of presbyphonia usually develop gradually and can vary from person to person.

One of the most consistent and common aspects of presbyphonia is a change in vocal pitch with age. Following the steeper drop in voice pitch that occurs during puberty, male voice pitch continues to drop until around 40 years of age before rising again, while female voice pitch decreases steadily throughout life. In advanced age, male and female voice frequencies converge and become very similar.

The Aged Voice: A New Hypothesis - Journal of Voice
Changes in speaking frequency throughout life in men and women.

Ageing can result in a reduction in maximum voice volume and the development of ‘vocal thinness’ – the voice becomes less rich and resonant as the folds of the vocal cords become thinner due to muscle loss. The voice can become hoarser with age as the vocal cords become stiffer and less able to vibrate effectively. With age, the muscles of the larynx become weaker and become fatigued more easily. This means that the voice tires more rapidly, becoming weaker throughout the day.

Combined, these changes make it harder for elderly people to make themselves heard during conversation, which may cause them to speak less or leave them feeling isolated.

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