The same changes that affect your body as it ages — less muscle and strength, more body fat, slower movements, and degeneration of body tissues — impact your voice as you get older. Usually as people age their speech slows down, syllables and words are elongated, and sentences are punctuated with more pauses for air. Pitch and loudness may be reduced, and tremors can appear. All in all, an older person’s speech lacks “pep.”
Scientific studies show:
- As they age, men’s larynxes change more than women’s, and these changes occur earlier.
- Male voice pitch tends to rise with age, while female voice pitch stays the same, or may lower slightly.
- Many elderly people have hearing loss. This may cause them to speak louder, which, in turn, can affect vocal health.
Vocal limitations: Age will undoubtedly bring changes to your voice. Healthy living can delay some changes, but no one stays young forever. At some point –like the rest of your body — your voice will age. Larynx cartilages become harder (and therefore less flexible) with age. This may reduce a person’s pitch range, which is particularly significant for those who enjoy singing. The respiratory system tends to work less efficiently as we age, thus speaking will become a more difficult task.
Microscopic studies of the fibers located in vocal folds show that these structures become stiffer and thinner, producing higher pitched voice, especially in males. The bulky muscle of the vocal fold (the thyroarytenoid) may shrink with age, creating a weaker, breathier voice.
Control your vocal destiny: The good news is that you have some control over how quickly your voice ages. A nutritious diet, rest, exercise and a positive attitude all help to keep the body working well. Exercise strengthens muscles and increases lung capacity. There is some evidence that an older, but healthy, person can have a stronger, better functioning voice than a younger, but less healthy, individual. Some of the ageing of the structures in the larynx aren’t necessarily detrimental. Remember that effective voicing isn’t dependent on brute force, but rather, a well-coordinated onset and offset of the laryngeal muscles. Some voice therapies may help to re-energize an ageing voice. For example, certain techniques can tone laryngeal muscles, while others are designed to teach how to use more forceful patterns to produce an audible voice.