October 01, 2015

Changing voice with age

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Changing voice with age

Your wife accuses you of selective hearing, but you're pretty sure her voice has been getting softer over the past few years. At gatherings, you see people straining to listen to her or asking her to repeat things. You wonder if this is something she should mention to her doctor or if it's just another part of getting older.

Voice change lasting longer than three weeks — or voice change that worsens over several weeks — may be a sign of a health problem and should be discussed with your doctor.

However, about 10 to 30 percent of older adults may have age-related voice change (presbyphonia), with no identifiable disease as the cause. Age-related changes in voice can be frustrating or troubling and can make communication with others difficult, possibly leading to avoidance of voice-related activities.

It may take a little persistence, but there are often steps you can take to improve the quality of your voice.

Vocal cords

Your vocal cords (folds) are located in your throat just behind your Adam's apple, which is part of the voice box. The vocal cords create a valve between your mouth, nose and throat (upper airway) and your trachea and lungs (lower airway). The vocal cords are two folds made up of muscle covered by mucous membrane within a cartilage framework. Vocal sounds are made when the vocal cords move close to each other and vibrate as air from the lungs travels through them.

The ability to produce a normal voice depends on the health and function of every aspect of the vocal anatomy, from the nerves that send signals...