Have you ever noticed that you can tell how someone is feeling–happy, irritated, unsure–by the sound of their voice?
In turn, when we experience stress or a traumatic event, the resulting tension can affect our voice. Learn the connection between the two and how you can take care of one of your most important tools of communication: your voice.
The power of the voice to convey emotions
Humans can convey emotions such as sadness, grief, fear, sarcasm, excitement, awe, and contentment through the tone of their speaking voice. And in fact, our voice is a powerful way to communicate these feelings.
A study from Yale University revealed that our sense of hearing may be better at recognizing emotions than our sense of sight. The research found that people can more often perceive someone’s emotional state by the sound of their voice, rather than by their facial expressions.
When we’re only listening to a person’s voice, without also seeing their body language or expressions, we’re more attuned to what we hear. That includes subtle shifts in voice pitch, voice quality, changes in tone or rate of speech, and breathing patterns.
How your emotions can affect your voice
The voice (or larynx) is housed within the throat, in front of the spinal cord. It’s connected to hundreds of blood vessels, muscles, and nerves. But in addition to the body, the voice is also connected to our mind and spirit.
When we experience stress, grief, anxiety, or a traumatic event, we carry those emotions and experiences in our mind and throughout our body, including in our throat. Did you know that the brain processes physical and emotional pain in the exact same way? Similarly, our throats hold both physical and emotional pain as well.
Symptoms of voice problems
When we’re exposed to a stressor, we experience tension, and our breath stops flowing freely. The breath is to the voice as gas is to a car. The breath turns the voice on! With increased tension in the body and reduced airflow, the voice can begin to carry tension as well. When tension is affecting your voice, you may have voice symptoms such as:
Your voice sounding strained or weak
Your voice becoming fatigued or tired more often
Difficulty projecting your voice or speaking for prolonged periods of time
How speech therapy can help your voice
If you’re having problems with your voice, it’s important to find a speech-language pathologist, or speech therapist, with experience in voice therapy. A holistic and integrative approach, which focuses on your mind, body, and voice, is critical for progress in voice therapy.
A typical session with a speech therapist will likely include the following:
Indirect voice therapy techniques, which teach you about vocal hygiene and how to lower your vocal effort
Direct voice therapy techniques, which help you learn to use your voice in a safer, healthier way
Vocal hygiene may focus on factors such as how you breathe, resting your voice, and avoiding certain toxins and allergens. Voice therapy techniques can include a personalized vocal exercise routine that will soothe and heal your voice. You may learn a new way of speaking that’s more vocally efficient, which means you can speak for longer periods of time, with less vocal effort.
Speech therapists know that clients can be holding both physical and emotional pain in their throats. Many voice therapy sessions don’t focus on the emotional aspect of the voice or include counseling, which addresses the emotions that could be at the root of the problem. But if the client feels safe doing so, it may be helpful to explore both the physical and emotional aspects of their voice disorder.
Our voices can reveal our deepest emotions. An integrative, holistic approach is highly successful in helping people heal their voice problems.