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Treating Males with Female Voice: Puberphonia

Ajit Harisinghani

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What Separates the Men from the Boys is the Timber of their Voice!

Amit Sharma is 20 years old and appears a very personable young man. He has just got his MBA degree and looks forward to a bright and rewarding career. There is only one dark cloud on his horizon. He speaks in a high-pitched ‘female’ voice and it embarrasses him no end. On the phone, he is often called ‘madam’ because he sounds like one. He tends to avoid using the telephone. Contrary to his extroverted nature, Amit has become a shy and withdrawn youngster and all because he is ashamed of his voice.

The quality of our voice is an important factor influencing our overall personality. Amitabh Bachhan’s image would not be so impressive without his deep and ‘manly’ voice.

It is commonly (and wrongly) believed that a male speaking with a high-pitched ‘female’ voice suffers from a predominance of female hormones or a deficiency of male ones. Any college boy with a voice like a girl’s becomes the victim of sexual innuendoes. So intense and continual is the psychological trauma that a person like Amit Sharma himself begins to doubt his ‘manhood’.

He might find it difficult to make friends especially of the opposite sex. He experiences rejection and ridicule every time he opens his mouth. One can very well imagine the day-to-day pressures such a voice problem entails and it is hardly surprising that Amit is not the exuberant youngster he’d like to be.

Amit suffers from a condition which speech therapists call Puberphonia. And in spite of its longish medical name, the problem is actually quite easy to overcome. Having suffered so much because of it, Amit might find it difficult to believe if told he can develop a normal, low-pitched voice in as short a period as 2 days: through speech therapy.

Children reach puberty around the age of 12 years when certain glands including the gonads (the "sex"’ glands) become activated. In males, this is also the age when their larynx (or voice-box) has a sudden increase in size. The vocal cords become longer and begin to vibrate at a lower pitch (or frequency). This is why most boys go through a period where their voice “breaks”. You could say the vocal cords are trying to adjust to their new dimensions. The Adam’s Apple begins to become prominent on the male neck. No such laryngeal changes take place in females who continue using a higher-pitched voice.

Males who retain their pre-puberal (or high-pitched) voice have nothing physically ‘wrong’ with their vocal cords or larynxes. It is just that for some reasons, they have not made the transition into using the deeper voice which their larger vocal dimensions would normally produce. These reasons are usually psychological and fairly easy to modify.

Actually, speech therapists welcome cases of puberphonia because it is one of the easiest conditions to cure: quickly and permanently without any medicines or surgery.

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