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School of Medicine
Is Vocal Fry Ruining My Voice?
Yeah, I use vocal fry. So what?
What do the Kardashians, Zooey Deschanel and Katy Perry all have in common? They all are well-known for their use of vocal fry, a creaky voice tone. But women aren’t the only ones using vocal fry —men use it too.
What is vocal fry?
Vocal fry is the lowest register (tone) of your voice characterized by its deep, creaky, breathy sound.
When you speak, your vocal cords naturally close to create vibrations as air passes between them. Like a piano or guitar string, these vibrations produce sound (your voice). When you breathe, your vocal cords are relaxed and open to let air pass through freely, which doesn’t produce any sound.
When you use vocal fry, you relax your vocal cords but do not increase the amount of air you’re pushing past your vocal cords, which produces slower vibrations and ultimately results in the lower creaky sound.
Does vocal fry affect your voice health?
Vocal fry is not physically harmful to the health of your voice. “The vocal anatomy is not damaged by speaking in vocal fry. However, like any behavior, vocal or otherwise, it can become a habit,” explains Johns Hopkins otolaryngologist Lee Akst, M.D.
Social Effects of Vocal Fry
Vocal fry can affect how others perceive you. “Having a little vocal fry in the voice can sometimes give off the impression of the person being more relaxed,” explains speech-language pathologist Kristine Pietsch, M.A. “It's become more common for radio personalities to use vocal fry in an attempt to sound more natural and accessible to their audience; however some listeners can find it grating."
Nevertheless, for some professions, this relaxed tone may unintentionally imply a speaker is uninterested, bored or unambitious.
When is vocal fry a problem?
“Does the quality of your voice interfere with your ability to meet your personal, professional, social or occupational needs?” Akst queries patients considering intervention. If the answer is yes, he refers patients to a speech-language pathologist.
“With voice therapy, people learn to coordinate their airflow, vocal fold (cord) vibration and resonance to produce a better sound,” Pietsch says. “We work together to make that better sound a habit.” Similar to singing lessons, treatment involves exercises, including vocal warmups, to get patients used to using their muscles in a different way to produce the sound.
Whether you use it or not, vocal fry is a pattern of voice use that does not cause harm to your voice. However, if you’re not satisfied with your voice, a speech-language pathologist can help improve its quality. These methods train you to produce a stronger, more powerful voice.
Akst also encourages anyone experiencing persistent vocal roughness to receive an examination to rule out vocal cord disorders that can only be diagnosed during an exam.
Tips for a Healthy Voice
To maintain the health of your voice, Akst provides these recommendations:
- Drink water; eight glasses a day is recommended.
- Don’t abuse your voice.
- Avoid smoking.
- Limit caffeine, carbonation and alcohol.
- Warm up your voice before heavy use.
- Use an amplification system when necessary, like a microphone or bullhorn.
- Avoid throat clearing.
- Listen to your voice; it shouldn’t feel like you’re working hard to speak.