Aside from the technology, one of the most important aspects of VoIP or Voice over Internet Protocol is precisely the first part: the voice! The majority of us use our vocal cords each day, either conversing with colleagues or over the phone. So in honour of this versatile instrument, here are 10 interesting facts about the voice (not the TV show).
1. A vocal trio
The voice is typically made up of three parts. These are 1) the power source, which is the breath; 2) the vibratory source, which are the vocal folds, otherwise known as the vocal cords; and 3) amplification, which consists of various spaces in the throat, nose and mouth. The lungs produce airflow and air pressure which vibrates the vocal folds and is then amplified by the mouth, nose and throat.
2. Shh… don't whisper it
Whispering can actually affect your voice in a negative way and can actually work the voice harder than speaking normally. Whispering is like talking without the vibration of the vocal folds which can put strain on the vocal cords and cause trauma to the larynx. It's far safer to use the call whisper function on your phone system!
3. Controlling your vocal sounds
The shape of a person's vocal tract is partly determined by genetics, but also partly by learning. So while you can't change the width of your pharynx, it is still possible to control the shape of the vocal tract. In this way, highly trained singers can alter the contours of their vocal tracts to change the sounds exiting their mouths.
4. How loud is your voice?
An average conversational voice is around 60dB (decibels). This is where the speaker and listener are conversing three feet apart. A shout typically measures a peak of 75dB, with quiet speech is usually around the 35 - 40dB mark. To put this into context, rustling leaves measures 10dB and a loud radio will be around 80dB. Anything above 120dB will hit the pain threshold, although the loudest shout measured 129dB by Jill Drake in October 2000.
5. How long can you hold it?
A typical male can sustain a sound for approximately 20 seconds. A typical female can sustain it for 15 seconds. The shorter the MPT, or maximum phonation time, the less efficient the respiratory or phonatory system. The record for the longest sustained vocal note was 1 minute 43 seconds, set by Richard Fink in New York in 2009. That's definitely a long hold time! Likewise, if you need to put your callers on hold, make sure they have the best on-hold audio!
6. The very first human recording
The very first recording of the human voice was made in 1860 by Edouard-Leon Scott de Martinville of Paris. He sang a 10-second snippet of the French folksong “Au Clair de la Lune” into a phonautograph on April 9th 1860. The phonautograph was the earliest known device for recording sound and was also invented by Edouard-Leon. Nowadays voice call recording is integrated into VoIP systems and is utilised for purposes such as security and training.
7. It's how wide?
The widest human vocal range is 10 octaves. Tim Storms of Missouri set the world record by demonstrating 10 octaves with a range from G/G#-5 to G/G#5. No mean feat when you consider that Mariah Carey has a range of five octaves.
8. Speed of speech
Different languages are spoken at different speeds. Some languages sound as if the speaker is talking really fast, while some sound relatively slow. English and Mandarin Chinese, for example, are spoken more slowly, but they are languages where there's a lot of information stuffed into a few syllables. Something called grammatical density refers to how much information is packed into each syllable. Languages such as Spanish, which is spoken more quickly, use a lot of syllables with a lower grammatical density. The English language is spoken at an average of 6.19 syllables per second. Spanish is slightly faster with an average of 7.82 syllables spoken a second! Despite these differences, all of these languages would have conveyed more or less identical amounts of information at the end of one minute of speech.
9. Let's get active
When someone is speaking or singing, their brains become extra-active. When listening to speech, the left hemisphere of the brain processes meaningful verbal content, while the right is more strongly associated with other aspects that the voice carries, such as emotional tone.
10. Pitch perfect
The average frequency range of a human is typically between 80 and 260 Hertz, with the male speech frequency falling into the range of 85 to 180 Hertz. The frequency range of a female will range from 165 to 255 Hertz.
So certainly a few things to think about next time you're having a conversation on the phone!
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