Understanding How Pitch Works

Understanding How Pitch Works | Voz Speech Therapy Services Bilingual Speech Therapist Clinic Washington DC

When it comes to your voice, there are many different factors that can influence how you sound.

To many people, pitch is the most immediately recognizable one.

Here at Voz, we’re a speech and language therapy clinic in Washington DC.

We offer speech therapy treatments for a variety of different speech, language, and swallowing disorders.

From expressive and receptive disorders to fluency disorders, speech sound disorders to early intervention, and much more.

But in terms of treatment, pitch isn’t always the most important factor.

That said, it’s still an influence on how we speak and communicate with one another.

Today, let’s dive into the nuances, impact, and practical applications of pitch.

What Is Pitch?

From a technical perspective, pitch is the speed at which your vocal folds are vibrating.

The higher your pitch, the faster they vibrate.

The lower your pitch, the slower they vibrate.

We measure this in hertz.

But when it comes to communication, there’s much more to it.

Pitch is the quality that transforms simple words into a narrative.

It shapes the emotional quality and highlights nuances in your message.

Consider the phrase “you look great today.”

Depending on your pitch and intonation – the way your pitch changes as you speak – this phrase could have very different meanings.

It lends color to your speech.

What Happens When You Make A Pitch?

When you create a pitch with your voice, it comes from your vocal folds (also known as your vocal cords).

You have two of them, located in your larynx (also known as your voice box).

As we mentioned previously, they vibrate – this is what produces pitch.

As you change your pitch at lower registers, you’re increasing or decreasing tension in your thyroarytenoid muscles.

They’re called TA muscles for short.

These muscles run the length of your vocal fold.

Changing the tension in these muscles works sort of like stretching a rubber band as you pluck it.

The higher tension creates a higher pitch.

Once you raise your pitch high enough, your cricothyroid muscles will kick in – CT muscles for short.

These are attached to the front of your thyroid.

It’s a small, butterfly shaped gland in the front of your throat.

They stretch your vocal folds further, making them even longer and thinner.

What Determines The Pitch Of A Voice?

That’s how pitch works from a technical perspective.

But what determines the pitch of your voice?

The size and shape of your vocal folds, for one.

Just like the strings on a bass guitar, if your vocal folds are thicker, they’ll naturally produce lower pitches.

Gender plays into this.

Those who’ve been through testosterone driven puberty will end up with vocal folds that are longer, thicker, and heavier.

That’s why, on average, men have lower pitched voices than women.

Certain health conditions can affect your natural pitch as well.

For example, women with PCOS may have heightened testosterone levels, which may have a masculinizing effect on their voice.

Age also plays a role.

As you grow older, your vocal folds may lose flexibility.

Also, cultural and linguistic factors may influence speech patterns and vocal range.

What Is Pitch? | Voz Speech Therapy Services Bilingual Speech Therapist Clinic Washington DC

Speech Therapy Concerns Affected By Pitch

While speech conditions aren’t often affected by pitch, some of them are.

If you do have one of the conditions below, speech therapy can help.

Let’s take a look at some of the conditions that affect your vocal pitch.

1. Voice Disorders

Voice disorders are disorders related specifically to the quality of your voice.

This can include how loud you’re able to speak, your rate of speech, and of course, your pitch.

One particular voice disorder that can affect your pitch is hypokinetic dysarthria.

This is a form of dysarthria related to damage to your basal ganglia, a part of your brain.

Symptoms of hypokinetic dysarthria include:

  • Difficulty increasing vocal volume
  • Difficulty changing pitch
  • Slurred speech
  • Speaking too fast or slow
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Difficulty pronouncing certain speech sounds
  • And others

Stuttering can also be a symptom of hypokinetic dysarthria, though they’re not always linked.

Similarly, a monotone voice can be a result of hypokinetic dysarthria, but not necessarily.

Autistic people are more likely to have monotone voices, as are men, and those with social anxiety.

RELATED: Autism Speech Therapy

Breathiness and hoarseness are another vocal disorder that prevent smooth vocal expression.

It’s often attributed to multiple causes like chronic acid reflux, overuse of vocal folds, or underlying health issues.

If you’re frequently asked to speak up, you may have low speech volume.

This can arise from cultural differences, physical factors, or emotional challenges.

In essence, voice disorders are multifaceted challenges and speech therapy provides tailored solutions to address the holistic needs to reclaim your voice.

RELATED: Speech Therapy For Voice Disorders

2. Throat Cancer

Throat cancer happens when malignant cells grow in the tissues of your throat.

The vocal changes linked to throat cancer are often a result of a tumor’s influence on your vocal folds and surrounding structures.

As the cancer progresses, you may experience alterations in your voice, including hoarseness, raspiness, or a change in pitch.

These vocal symptoms can be distressing, affecting not only the ability to communicate effectively but also influence quality of life.

Speech therapy offers targeted interventions to help regain control over your voice pitch, ensuring a more confident mode of communication throughout the course of treatment and recovery.

3. Parkinson’s Disease

Voice disorders associated with neurological conditions pose unique challenges, and Parkinson’s disease is a prominent example.

Parkinson’s gradually impacts muscle coordination due to degeneration of the substantia nigra, a region of the brain responsible for dopamine production.

The reduction in dopamine levels lead to a range of symptoms, including voice tremors, dysarthria, muffled speech, and difficulty swallowing, also known as dysphagia.

Speech therapy for neurological disorders like Parkinson’s disease incorporate the Lee Silverman Voice Treatment (LVST LOUD).

This is considered the gold standard for addressing speech challenges in Parkinson’s disease.

It focuses on enhancing vocal loudness, clarity, and articulation.

Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) is also an option to help you continue communicating clearly.

Book Your Appointment With Voz Speech Therapy Today

Whether you’re seeking to enhance your communication skills or dealing with a condition that affects your pitch, we can help.

Here at Voz, our team of therapists is experienced and trained to offer specialized services to address voice related concerns and pitch modulation.

Book your appointment with Voz Speech Therapy today.

Voz Speech Therapy
1331 H St NW Ste 200,
Washington, DC 20005

(202) 734-4884
- https://g.page/vozspeechtherapy

Voz Speech Therapy is a pediatric bilingual speech therapy clinic in Washington, DC that provides individualized services based on the specific needs of your or your child. Therapy sessions are provided in English or Spanish, depending on your child’s native language. Voz Speech Therapy es una clínica pediátrica bilingüe de terapia del habla en Washington, DC que brinda servicios individualizados según las necesidades específicas de usted o su hijo. Las sesiones de terapia se brindan en inglés o español, según el idioma nativo de su hijo.