Aging Speech: Voice, Resonance, and Articulation – Respiratory System Example

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"Aging Speech: Voice, Resonance, and Articulation" is a great example of a paper on the respiratory system. Aging differs from one individual to another, which may also be revealed in their speech. The main speech subsystems, which include phonation, articulation, respiration, prosody, and resonation, are synchronized so as to produce speech. However during aging speech is likely to change due to pathologies, which occur more in elderly people than young people. Furthermore, the disruption of any of the five subsystems can cause a change in the other systems; thus, affecting speech.

For this reason, it is essential to discuss each subsystem separately in order to identify the normal or abnormal changes in a speech during aging. The respiration subsystem triggers the other processes of speech; hence, it is not possible to differentiate between respiratory effects from other symptoms caused by the failure of other subsystems. It supports the voiced, as well as the voiceless speech sounds, but can be adjusted in order to create a variation in the characteristics of voice, as well as prosody. The resonation subsystem, on the other hand, shapes the sound during transfer via the vocal tract; thus, making it a primary factor that contributes to the production of vowels along with the nasal consonants.

In resonation, aging causes the vocal tract to undergo several anatomic changes; for instance, the vocal tract lengthens, the tongue shrivels and the pharyngeal muscles weaken. According to Skladany and Toner, phonation is the sound source for voiced sounds, which is described by loudness, voice quality, and pitch. This occurs at around 70 to 90 years of age where pitch declines after menopause in women, but increases in elderly men.

The articulation subsystem helps in the production of speech phonemes, and its quick movements blend the sound produced, into a consistent speech. However, articulatory precision reduced in primary aging, and the voice plosives become highly variable. The prosody subsystem shows how speech subsystems interact and is defined by several factors such as intonation, rate, and influential characteristics of speech. The perception of listeners on the fluency of the speaker is influenced by rhythm and rate. However, contrary to primary aging, secondary aging increases the possibility of multiple diagnoses that cause speech and voice problems.

These diagnostic categories include neurologic disorders, laryngeal disorders, medication effects, and pulmonary illnesses among others. Hence, according to Skladany and Toner, the process of aging inclines older people into various voice disorders, which place them at high risk for both environmental and health influences that contribute to the problems. According to the New York Times, about 7% of elderly people have problems using the telephone due to communication difficulties. The article states that communication skills decrease with typical aging due to various factors such as changes in physical health, cognitive decline, and depression among others.

Therefore, this shows that a person’ s age can be predicted through the accuracy of their speech characteristics such as pitch, loudness, voice tremor, fluency, and speaking rate. Moreover, some language skills remain relatively stable during aging such as grammatical judgment, vocabulary, and repetition ability while other language skills such as comprehension of intricate sounds and naming reduce. However, despite the changes in communication being slight and gradual, they have been observed to affect the attendance of social functions by the elderly. In addition, long-term communication problems have been observed to increase the problems people encounter during aging.

For instance, MS is a chronic neurologic condition, which usually starts in mid-life.   It has been reported that about 50% of people with MS are likely to have communication problems due to changes in cognition and speech, caused by multiple lesions in the CNS, which causes complex symptoms. Therefore, it can be noted that communication changes especially in voice increase with age, which also leads to an increase in communication disorders among elderly people.  

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