Is Your Voice Giving Away Your Age?

So you’re using all the lotions and potions, and may have even considered aesthetic or cosmetic options – you feel younger, you look younger – but is something else giving away your age? You may be surprised to hear that not only can your voice make you sound old, but it can be affecting your career. Monique Harrisberg, founder and CEO of The Voice Clinic, shares advice on getting a “voice lift” without surgery.

What are the signs and sounds of an aging voice?

The voice becomes a little croaky and sounds like it is stuck in the throat. The pace of speech slows down; the voice pitch drops and becomes heavy. With age, lung capacity decreases, so the voice loses power and doesn’t project as well.

When does the voice start to age?

Around the age of 50+. The voice sounds darker, hoarser, deeper and more strained – even more so if you are a smoker. Just as with the rest of the body and muscles, you must exercise the voice to be supple. The organs of articulation need to be exercised, otherwise the voice becomes lazy: the soft palate drops; vowels sound blurry; defined consonants are blurred and undefined.

Why is it important for your career?

Your voice projects 38% of every communication message. It is your calling card, quite literally. Just as you would not hand someone a crumpled business card, you should not give him or her a crumpled voice!

Your voice needs to sound clear and well- projected, and pleasing to the ear. With your voice you project credibility and competence. To come across well professionally, you need a resonant voice, which projects the qualities of warmth and friendliness. You need to use pausing, phrasing and emphasis correctly to keep an audience’s attention. If you make a presentation or speech in a boring, dull, monotonous voice, people will think that you are boring and dull. That is what is called para-language – the “body language” of the voice.

A good tip is to smile while you talk on the phone: it forces you to open your mouth and it lifts the voice. It is good to have a sense of humor – it always gives the voice a lighter quality. “Little girl” wispy voices in grown-up women need urgent treatment! A breathy, high-pitched, squeaky voice has no power and influence whatsoever, and just serves to irritate people.

Develop authority in your voice with a lower pitch. A high and shrill voice doesn’t serve you at all. Your voice is an instrument that can be played – you can choose how you want it to sound.

Try this:

Stick these three voice exercises on your fridge or bathroom mirror and practice them every day, six times each, and do it faster every time:

1. I’m a critical cricket critic

2. Red lorry, yellow lorry

What is the biggest mistake women make?

Talking too loudly and shouting.

Dos and don’ts to keep your voice younger for longer

  • Do avoid or manage stress. Stress has an impact on breathing – only the top third of the lungs are filled with air, instead of the bottom half. One then overcompensates for the lack of air by talking high and fast, and the voice loses power. Adrenaline also causes the voice to have a high pitch. Learn to relax the muscles around the throat and control your breathing.
  • Do keep your voice fit with tongue-twisters.
  • Do good breathing exercises – practice inter-costal diaphragmatic breathing (IDB), which is used by actors and singers.
  • Do not strain your voice. Straining causes vocal nodules (growths on the vocal cords), which will need to be surgically removed.
  • Your voice needs to come from your stomach, rather than your chest – that protects the voice from vocal cord abuse.
  • Avoid making shrill, harsh sounds – this is damaging to the vocal cords.

How do you get a “voice lift”?

You can enroll for voice coaching in a class (like a gym class); you will learn about breathing, resonance, relaxation and clarity of speech. Or simply practice at home by reading aloud.

How long does it take?

Two to three hours of training can already have an impact your voice and breathing.

Click here to find out how vocal cord tissue can now be grown in a lab.