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Voice Changes in Menopause: What You Need to Know

In a previous article about menopause and its effects on the mouth, Surety shed light on dental issues and oral wellness. In this article, we will explore the effects of menopause on the human voice.


Vocal woman singing
Changes in one's voice are among the most noticeable and common alterations experienced after the age of 60.

The transition into menopause brings many changes, and one often overlooked aspect is its impact on the voice. For women in professions relying heavily on vocal strength – like teaching, singing, or public speaking – understanding these changes is crucial.


These changes include shifts in pitch, volume, and resonance. While this may not be a significant concern for many, for professionals in the voice industry, such as musicians, emcees, live orators, voice guides, communicators, and teachers, changes in voice could profoundly impact their livelihood. They may suddenly become inaudible, experience a loss of clarity in speech and singing due to hoarseness, fluctuations in pitch, dryness in the throat, and vocal fatigue.


Menopause and the Phonatory System



During menopause, the loss of ovarian follicles leads to a gradual decrease in estrogen and progesterone levels, accompanied by an increase in follicle-stimulating hormone. Inadvertently, other hormones, such as male androgens, exert their influence. Around the age of 50, many women notice changes like hoarseness, a drop in pitch, or a more masculine tone due to thinning mucous membranes and muscle loss in the larynx.


Common Vocal Challenges


Vocal Atrophy and Dysphonia


Age-related conditions leading to a quivering voice, decreased volume, and reduced endurance. These conditions include vocal atrophy, presbyphonia, and dysphonia. These conditions may involve quivering and voice tremors, reduced volume and voice projection, lower-pitched voices in women, and diminished vocal endurance.


Presbyphonia is diagnosed when changes occur in the structure and tissues within the voice box, leading to shifts in pitch, volume, and resonance.


Dysphonia is characterized by impaired voice production, resulting in huskiness, loss of high notes, reduced flexibility and stability of notes, and vocal discomfort. Voice disorders may arise from swollen and inflamed vocal cords that lose their stretchability.


Timely medical intervention by a laryngologist can be effective when the condition is in its early stages. Surgical treatments have been known to enhance voice strength, stability, and endurance. This can offer hope and respite to women in the voice professions who are in constant fear of jeopardizing their careers.


Hoarseness


Hoarseness is a symptom of altered voice quality. The voice box, or larynx, is located in the throat and contains the vocal cords. It plays a role in breathing, swallowing, and speaking. As the tissues surrounding the vocal cords become thinner and less flexible with age, this can contribute to changes in voice quality. Some women may experience a sudden deepening of their voices due to decreased throat muscle tone, resulting in hoarseness.


Fun fact: Did you know that the note at which we naturally cough or laugh represents our own perfect pitch?

Body Mass Index (BMI)


Body fat is a source of estrogen, so weight gain can increase estrogen levels and affect the larynx. Research indicates that vocal changes are more common among menopausal women compared to younger women who have not yet reached perimenopause.


Maintaining Your Voice


Experts Recommend...


  • Regular Practice: Reading a book or paper out loud for 10 to 15 minutes, two or three times a day, and singing along with the radio.

  • Physical Well-Being: Maintaining good cardiovascular health and overall physical well-being to preserve the ability to communicate confidently as one ages.

  • Speech therapy: Often effective in helping older adults project their voices more efficiently and with less effort. A speech-language pathologist can design a vocal fitness program to improve vocal health.

  • Vocal Function Exercises: Research-based activities designed to strengthen vocal cord closure using respiration, phonation, and resonance. YouTube can help you locate appropriate exercises, and those finding them useful can consider workshops with professionals.

  • Voice Therapy: Known to be effective in alleviating certain voice disorder symptoms, but many older adults currently do not reap its benefits due to limited awareness, lack of trust in medical progress, and difficulties accessing voice therapy. Additionally, there isn't enough literature on topics like presbyphonia prevention.


Even if you haven't yet experienced age-related changes in your voice, it's a good idea to exercise your voice, just as physical fitness programs help maintain body strength with age.


What's Next?

  • Stay hydrated.

  • Gargle with salt water.

  • Quit smoking.

  • Learn and practice breathing techniques through yoga to control inhalation and exhalation.

  • Avoid excessive yelling or screaming, allowing vocal folds to heal if you've been abusing your voice.

  • Reading aloud regularly helps maintain good vocal condition.

  • Sing using proper techniques to improve voice quality.

  • Find the appropriate tone or volume for regular conversations.

  • Consider taking lessons with a vocal coach or receiving vocal therapy from a speech pathologist.

Changes in voice are a natural part of aging, especially during menopause. Being proactive about vocal health can make a significant difference. Remember, this information is for educational purposes; always consult a healthcare professional for personal advice.


 

Important Notes:

This article is meant purely for informational purposes and should not be relied upon as medical advice. Always consult a medical professional for specific advice on your health.


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