If you or your child struggles with a speech disorder, you know that it can make life uncomfortable.
Trouble communicating can make life more challenging, especially when people struggle to understand what you say.
It can affect your confidence level and you may find yourself avoiding certain situations because you feel embarrassed about your impediment.
You can see your child struggling to communicate and the frustration that it brings them.
But don’t lose hope.
By working with a speech therapist, you or your child can overcome the challenges you’re facing.
If you’re looking for speech therapy in the DC area, District Speech and Language Therapy has the help you need.
One of the things your speech therapist will do is to educate you about your voice and the mechanics involved in your issue.
So let’s take a closer look at the mechanics of the voice.
What Is Your Voice Mechanism?
Just like the respiratory system or the nervous system, your voice is part of a system known as the voice mechanism, which is comprised of three parts.
The sound we produce when speaking or singing is a result of the three subsystems of the voice mechanism working together.
Speech disorders can affect one or all of the three subsystems.
What Are The Three Subsystems Of Your Voice Mechanism?
Your voice mechanism is comprised of three parts:
- The air pressure system: moving air through the vocal folds, causing them to vibrate
- The vibratory system: your larynx (voice box) and vocal folds that produce sound
- The resonating system: your throat and oral cavity, which refines the sound
Each system is located in a different part of the body, so let’s take a more in depth look at each one.
The Air Pressure System
The air pressure system contains everything involved in providing air to your vocal folds, which is where sound is produced.
Body parts in the air pressure system are your lungs, ribs, chest muscles, diaphragm, and abdominal muscles.
Air is gathered in your lungs and pushed through your vocal folds using your diaphragm, chest and abdominal muscles.
The air pressure system regulates the amount of air provided to the vibratory system, allowing you to speak loudly or quietly, or to sing at varying dynamics.
Issues with speech that could originate in the air pressure system include speaking too quietly or breathing too frequently while speaking.
The Vibratory System
The vibratory system is comprised of your larynx (voice box) and vocal folds.
Your larynx sits at the top of your windpipe, and performs during breathing, coughing, swallowing, and speaking.
The larynx is a very complex structure containing cartilage, muscles, and nerves.
Your vocal folds (often called vocal cords) are folds of soft tissue that function as the main vibratory section of your voice box.
Your vocal folds tissue is made up of three parts: the epithelium (a cover), vocal ligaments (the vibrating structure), and the main body, which is a muscle.
If the human body were a musical instrument, then the vibratory system is the reed through which air passes, or the string that vibrates to create a sound.
Any change or compromise to the vibratory system can result in hoarseness, breathy vocal sounds, or even complete loss of voice.
The good news is recent studies have shown seeing your speech therapist quickly after the onset of a voice disorder greatly improves your chances of alleviating symptoms, leading to improved quality of life.
Damage to the vocal folds due to incorrect use is a common problem for singers, and can require surgery or in extreme cases may demand the singer to cease speaking entirely to heal the damage.
If you’ve experienced puberty driven by testosterone, your vocal folds will be thicker, which allows you to create deeper sounds in a lower pitch.
This is a great benefit to transgender men and trans masculine individuals who opt for hormone replacement therapy, as their voices naturally become deeper.
Testosterone thickens vocal folds, but a lack of testosterone doesn’t thin them, so trans women and trans feminine individuals who want to create a passably feminine voice need to take a different approach.
The Resonating System
Finally, we come to the resonating system, which in our musical instrument example would be the large resonating chamber into which the vibration echoes to produce sound.
In the human body, sound resonates through the throat, the oral cavity and the nasal passages.
It is here in which the buzzy vibration from the vocal folds turns into a recognizable sound, the sound of your own voice.
Your vocal tract resonators modify and amplify the sound, making it easier for people to understand you.
Common issues with the resonating system include poor quality or timbre to the voice, for example when you have a head cold and speak with a very “stuffed up” quality.
For singers, vocal sound quality depends a lot on the resonating system, and serious singers will spend years studying the different mechanisms at work when resonating.
Book Your Appointment With District Speech Today
If you live in the DC area and have trouble with speech that you think could stem from issues with the voice, then District Speech can help.
Our therapists will work with you to help you understand the mechanisms at work and correct the issue.
And if your child has issues with speaking, our pediatric speech therapists can help as well.
In that case, early intervention speech therapy is critical.
Studies have shown that the earlier you begin speech therapy for your child the higher the chances for their success.
1300 I St NW, #400E,
Washington, DC 20005
District Speech and Language Therapy specializes in speech therapy, physical therapy, and occupational therapy solutions, for both children and adults, in the Washington D.C and the Arlington Virginia areas.