Can Your Weight Affect Your Voice?

What I usually try to do is to find a way to ‘interpret’ voice research or rather try to find a piece of practical use from scientific research for voice users. I love science, it provides us with detailed information and with information comes power. The whole point of this project is to learn more so we can use it to play, explore and create our own art. But, sometimes research results in more questions and ambiguous answers than when we started. And then sometimes your quest for answers only comes out as a…’maybe’.

The authors of this research start with the problems of obesity in our world, we are gaining weight faster and getting heavier. A skyrocketing obesity increase of 40% in the last 30 years for developing countries. They also highlight that weight gain comes with “cardiovascular, musculoskeletal, metabolic, endocrine and psychoemotional diseases.”

With obesity comes vocal structural changes when fat accumulates in the ‘lateral and posterior walls of the pharynx, uvula, soft palate, and posterior region of the tongue’. Stored fat around your abdomen and your ribs will effect your breathing ‘especially the diaphragm’ which directly ‘impairs respiratory function, culminating in excessive fatigue, air transportation deficit, and loss of muscle strength.’

These researchers looked at morbidly obese women who where waiting for bariatric surgery, they found their voices were marked with ‘roughness, breathiness, instability and tension’.

There was also a significant number of subjects with reflux. Reflux, being stomach acid, will burn your voice making it sound rough and scratchy.

The 3 areas that may affect your voice if you’re carrying a lot of weight are:

  1. Respiration: excess weight will impact how you breath
  2. Vocal Vibration: excess weight will increase the mass of your vocal folds
  3. Resonator: excess weight will change the size of your neck and impact on how sound resonates

So yes, for these test subjects, the ones who are categorised as morbidly obese, the extra weight will likely change the sound of your voice, how you produce it, and damage it through gastro reflux.

There’s more details to the article which you can find with the link below in which they discuss other research findings.

But I’m interested in what you think. Do you agree? What’s your experience. Also, if there’s a topic you want me to look at please let me know.

Vocal Characteristics of Patients with Morbid Obesity. Janaina Regina Bosso, Regina Helena Garcia Martins, Adriana Bueno Benito Pessin, Elaine Lara Mendes Tavares, Celso Vieira Veite, and Luiz Eduardo Naresse. Brazil. Journal of Voice 2019.

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