How do we make a sound?December 28th, 2009 - 1:15 pm ICT by IANS
Washington, Dec 28 (IANS) When people speak, sing or shout, they produce sound by pushing air over their vocal folds — bits of muscle and tissue that manipulate the air flow and vibrate within it.
When someone has growth or some other problem with their vocal folds, the airflow can be altered, affecting the sound production.
“Voice disorders affect 30 percent of the general population and up to 60 percent of educators,” says George Washington University (GWU) professor Michael Plesniak, leader of a new study on the subject.
“The objective of our work is to develop a detailed understanding of the phonation (sounds) process, which will enable the development of computational models,” he said.
Wanting to better characterise the physics of this process, Plesniak and his doctoral student Byron Erath teamed up with speech pathologists a few years ago, to investigate what exactly happens when a person speaks.
Plesniak and his students constructed a mechanical model of the vocal folds that had motorised, programmable components that can alter their shape and motion in various ways to mimic human vocal folds.
An important feature of the model, says Plesniak, is that it is seven-and-a-half times larger than the actual physiology, which allows the dynamics to be studied in greater detail, says a GWU release.
The ultimate goal, he adds, is to create tools to help surgeons make preoperative assessments of how a vocal tract surgery will affect an individual’s voice.
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