Academic journal article Journal of Singing

Vocology and Audiology: Natural Partners for Exploring the Voice

Academic journal article Journal of Singing

Vocology and Audiology: Natural Partners for Exploring the Voice

Article excerpt

WHEN I TOOK MY FIRST courses in communication sciences and disorders in the late '60s, sound production and sound reception (and perception) by humans were always taught in the same series of lectures. It was rare that range of frequency and acoustic power produced by the larynx were not immediately related to range of frequency and power received by the auditory system. I studied the classic books of Fletcher (1953) and Flanagan (1965), both of which drew strong parallelism between voicing and hearing.1

Consider first the anatomic and physiologic similarities. Neural signals activate the posturing muscles of the larynx to set up a glottal configuration. Airflow is produced to vibrate the vocal folds. This tissue vibration is converted to acoustic waves in the larynx canal (the epilarynx tube). These acoustic waves further propagate through the vocal tract and radiate from the mouth. On the reception side, the radiated sound is received by the outer ear (the equivalent of the vocal tract), elevated in pressure by the ear canal (the equivalent of the larynx canal, or epilarynx tube), and applied to the ear drum (the equivalent of the vocal folds). Cochlear fluid mechanics, the equivalent of glottal airflow mechanics in vocalization, excites the hair cells to transmit electrical signals to the brain via the auditory nerve. The receptor neurophysiology parallels the motor neurophysiology in the laryngeal muscles.

Over the years, the partnership between voice science and hearing science has waned a bit. Speech largely absorbed voice and aligned itself more with language. In Europe, this alliance is demonstrated by the title of the journal Logopedics, Phoniatrics, and Vocology. Interestingly, however, the older alliance still exists. For example, some academic departments in France use the term Audio-phonologie to describe their disciplinary emphasis.

We might pose the question: What's more important for a singing teacher, to have a good ear or to have a good larynx? A large debate could ensue on this issue. Certainly the terminology we use to describe voice production in the studio is more related to hearing science than voice science. …

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