Laryngeal and Pharyngeal Movements During Inner Singing: A Cross-Sectional Study

Carmen Unterhofer, Anna Maria Stefanie Buchberger, Olivia Jeleff-Wölfler, Naglaa Mansour, Simone Graf
Journal of Voice 2019 March 12

INTRODUCTION: Laryngeal and pharyngeal activity during inner singing is discussed in the context of vocal hygiene. Inner singing is defined as imagined singing, reading music silently, and listening to vocal music. When vocal rest is prescribed, doctors, speech therapists, and voice pedagogues recommend avoiding listening to music or reading music silently, since it is suggested that inner singing unconsciously influences the glottis, and thus moves the vocal folds involuntarily. The aim of this study was to compare the degree to which involuntary laryngeal and/or pharyngeal activity occur during inner singing, inner speech, and at rest, and to evaluate if current recommendations concerning vocal hygiene are still reasonable.

MATERIAL AND METHOD: Thirty vocally healthy participants were examined transnasally with a flexible videoendoscope. The sample consisted of 10 nonsingers, 10 lay singers, and 10 professional singers. Participants were examined during five tasks including rest, silent reading, imagining a melody, listening to music, and reading music. Two medical doctors specializing in phoniatrics analyzed the videos both qualitatively and quantitatively.

RESULTS: During the endoscopic examination, the raters identified movements at the base of the tongue, the posterior and lateral pharynx wall, the arytenoid cartilage, and the vocal folds. The inner singing tasks showed significantly more laryngeal movements as well as significantly more glottal closures than the control tasks (at rest, silent reading). Pharyngeal structures did not show an increase in activity during inner singing. These findings were independent of the level of proficiency in singing.

CONCLUSION: When total vocal rest is prescribed, patients should also be advised to avoid music imagination. Still, further research is needed to survey in detail the actual effects of these involuntary movements during inner singing on the regeneration process of vocal fold healing.

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