Singing is a great joy to carry through your entire life. However, there are some important considerations to keep in mind at all stages of life– from early childhood singing straight through the aging voice– in order to maintain vocal health, comfort, and flexibility.
If your little one loves to sing, encourage it! A love for music is a wonderful thing and we never want an eager child to stray away from making music or develop anxieties around it. However, listen carefully for straining or shouting which can be very damaging to immature vocal mechanisms. In fact, vocal injuries are on the rise in young voices; as recently as 2004, some studies have found up to 30% of children have some type of voice pathology, which can include general hoarseness, vocal nodes, or polyps (Int J Pediatr Otorhinolaryngol. 2004 Apr; PMID: 15013605.).
One element of vocal development of which many people are not aware but which can be a contributing factor to vocal injury, is the existence of a so-called “vocal chink” in young voices. That is, before puberty, some voices exhibit an actual gap in the vocal folds that literally needs to be “grown into” before the child will have complete closure of the vocal folds. This means that a “breathy” sound in young voices is perfectly normal and should be accepted, embraced and applauded. In time, the breathiness will resolve on its own! Child singers get into trouble when trying to imitate more mature sounding voices, as they must force too aggressively with the throat muscles to create more closure in their vocal folds. This type of strain is incredibly unhealthy and can leave to vocal injuries that could plague them for the rest of their lives.
To give your child the best chance of healthful lifelong singing, encourage their discovery of music through all available means– exploration of other instruments before their voices are ready to handle more intensive study can be a wonderful way to build musical literacy and expressiveness! And, if you’re able to locate a trained voice teacher who has experience working with young voices, guided singing study is absolutely appropriate and wonderful to ensure that healthy voice use is being learned to protect these eager young singers from unknowingly hurting themselves.
Though estrogen-dominant voices may continue to physically change and grow into their early 30s (essentially, the vocal change that occurs quickly- and sometimes awkwardly- in testosterone-dominant puberty happens much more slowly in estrogen-dominant voices), most healthy adults won’t think about or notice much deviance in their voice health throughout their adulthood, provided they maintain good vocal hygiene and care. As with the body as a whole, however, as we age we lose elasticity and muscle tone; this is true for the voice as well. As such, maintaining consistent “exercise” for the voice (as with the body) has the potential to improve your voice use experience exponentially into your advanced age. Stereotypically, we may think of a “wobble” emerging in older singers, particularly those with higher voice types (higher voice type= smaller voicebox and generally less muscle tone). By using your voice efficiently in your adulthood, and maintaining healthy posture, alignment, and balance in your voice (“breath support” is a common theme in this!), you can delay the inevitable changes of aging.
Of course, menopause is a natural function in aging bodies which will undoubtedly affect the voice. As with all symptoms of menopause, the severity and duration will vary by the individual. To learn more about what you may expect if you are in or approaching menopause, we recommend reading “Singing Through Change” by Nancy Bos, Joanne Bozeman, and Cate Frazier-Neely.
Wherever you are on your vocal journey, working one-on-one with a knowledgeable voice teacher can be a wonderful aid to navigating challenges and avoiding common pitfalls. The trained ear of your teacher can clue into potential challenges before you yourself may even notice them! To learn more about studying singing, connect with us to schedule your complimentary intro session. We would love to be your guide for lifelong, healthful voice use.