Sir Elton John set a record at this year’s Glastonbury Festival, becoming… most watched In the festival’s history, more than 7 million people tuned in to the BBC live stream to watch its last performance in the UK.
The 76-year-old singer certainly showed off all of his signature skills. But many who have followed his music for decades will notice how much his voice has changed over the course of his career – and not just because He underwent surgery In the eighties to Removal of polyps from his vocal cords.
Likewise, it’s not all down to the aging process. While it’s no mystery that this affects every part of our body, it’s not the only reason why a person’s voice – even a professional singer like Sir Elton’s – can sound so different over the years.
The sound of your voice
The vocal cords are what make your voice. Located in throatThe part of the respiratory system that allows air to pass from your throat to your lungs. As air exits the lungs and through the larynx, it causes the vocal cords to vibrate – audio production.
The vocal cords consist of Three main parts: the vocal muscle, the vocal ligament, and the mucous membrane (which contains the glands) to cover it. This maintains the surface’s moisture It protects them from damage. There are also approx 17 other muscles In the larynx it can change the position and tension of the vocal cord – thus altering the sound produced.
Before puberty, there is very little difference in the sound made by the vocal cords. But during puberty, hormones start to take their toll. This alters the structure of the larynx—making the “Adam’s apple” more prominent in men—and The length of the vocal cords. After puberty, they are about 16 mm long in men and 10 mm long in women.
Even after puberty, hormones can affect the voice. For example, a woman’s voice may sound different depending on the phase of the menstrual cycle – with Best sound quality It is in the ovulation stage. This is because the glands produce the most mucus during this stage, giving the vocal cords their best functional abilities.
Research also shows that women who take birth control pills show Less difference in sound quality Because the pill stops ovulation. On the other hand, hormonal changes during the premenstrual phase hinder the vocal cords, making them stiffer. This may explain why opera singers’days of grace“In the ’60s to ensure they don’t damage their vocal cords. And because Female vocal cords thinner, they may also be more susceptible suffer damage from excessive.
Everything is getting old
As with almost any other part of the body, the vocal cords age. But these changes may not be the case noticeable to all. As we get older, the larynx begins to increase in size mineral content, making it more solid and bone-like than cartilage. This change can start early Thirties – Especially in men. This makes the vocal cords less flexible.
The muscles that allow the vocal cords to move, too You begin to emaciate (as do our other muscles) as we age. The ligaments and tissues that support the vocal cords, too lose flexibilityBecome less flexible. There is also a decrease in pulmonary muscle function, which reduces the force of air expelled from the lungs to create sound. The number of glands that produce protective mucus is also reduced, along with the ability to do so Throat control.
Lifestyle is a factor
While the vocal cords age at much the same rate in most people, several lifestyle factors can increase the risk of damage to them — and in turn can change the way you sound.
Smoking, for example, causes Local inflammationmore production of mucous membranesbut can also dry up mucous surfaces. Alcohol contains a Similar effect. Over time, these factors can damage the vocal cords and change the pitch of the voice. Some over-the-counter and prescription medications can also change the voice – eg Steroid inhalers used in laryngitis. Blood thinners may also be Damage to the vocal cords They can cause polyps to form, making the voice hoarse or hoarse. muscle relaxantsIt, too, can lead to irritation and damage to the vocal cords due to the medication allowing stomach acid to back up into the larynx. Fortunately, the irritation and changes caused by these medications usually go away after you stop using them.
Another lifestyle factor could be overuse, which is usually seen in singers and other people who use their voice a lot. during work, such as teachers and fitness instructors. This can lead to an uncommon condition called Reinke’s edema, which can also be caused by smoking. Reinke’s edema causes fluid to swell in the vocal cords, changing the pitch of the voice – often making it deeper.
In severe cases of Reinke’s edema, Surgery is required to drain the liquid. But in most cases, rest and avoiding irritants (smoking, alcohol) is helpful, while speech and language therapy can also help. change in voice.
Maintain our vocal quality
While we can’t help some of the age-related changes that occur to our vocal cords, we can maintain some vocal quality and ability through continued use. This may explain why singers are shown in so many cases Significantly less vocal change as they age more than their non-singing counterparts.
sing or reading Being loud every day can give your vocal cords enough exercise to slow their deterioration. take care of The vocal cords are also important. Stay hydrated and limit your intake alcohol And tobacco It can help prevent high rates of rollback and damage. DM
Adam Taylor is Professor and Director of the Clinical Anatomy Learning Center at Lancaster University.