Why Does Our Voice Change When We Cry?

Understanding the neurological impact of crying on vocal cord tension and the expression of emotional distress.

Why Does Our Voice Change When We Cry?
Photo by Chulpan Gallyamova / Unsplash

Crying is often accompanied by a noticeable change in the sound of our voices, which becomes trembling and choked up.

But what exactly causes this alteration in our vocal quality?

Muscular Contractions in the Larynx

When we cry, the laryngeal muscles, particularly the vocal cords, experience increased tension and contraction.

These contractions lead to a tightening of the vocal cords, resulting in the strained and trembling sound that characterizes crying.

Impact of Emotional Distress

Emotional distress triggers the body's 'fight or flight' response, leading to an elevation in stress hormones like cortisol.

This heightened state of emotional arousal can lead to physical changes, influencing the tension in the muscles involved in speech production.

As a result, the ability to modulate pitch and intonation can be affected, contributing to the strained and shaky quality of our voices during crying.

Suppressed Breathing Control

Crying often involves irregular breathing patterns, characterized by shallow and uneven breaths.

This compromised breathing control affects our vocal production, resulting in irregularities in voice modulation and resonance.

The altered breath patterns impact the regular oscillation of the vocal cords, further contributing to the trembling and quivering sound of our cries.

Neurological Factors

Crying is linked to the activation of specific brain regions, particularly those associated with emotion and physiological responses.

This neurological involvement can influence the coordination and control of the muscles involved in vocalization, affecting the steadiness and modulation of our voices.

Psychological Impact

The psychological component of crying also plays a pivotal role in the altered vocalization.

The experience of crying, often associated with feelings of vulnerability and distress, can influence our overall emotional state, leading to changes in vocal production and modulation.

Physiological Responses

Apart from muscular and emotional factors, crying is associated with physiological changes such as increased heart rate and blood pressure.

These physiological responses can contribute to the altered vocalization, with the body's heightened state impacting the control and coordination of vocal muscles.

So, the next time you wonder why your voice sounds different when you cry, remember that it's a complex interplay of muscular, emotional, neurological, psychological, and physiological factors that contribute to this unique vocal alteration.