Today, [Ingo R. Titze] is investigating a less highbrow challenge, but one that will have a greater impact on Americans who use their voice on the job. With funding from the National Institutes of Health, Titze and his fellow investigators will soon be hooking up vocal-cord monitors to almost 100 volunteer teachers in Denver. The hope is to gain a better understanding of the basic mechanics of speaking, so that people who talk for a living can better avoid raspiness and pain.
Titze's project will be the first extensive study of how human vocal cords perform in real-life, workaday settings. "He is attempting to use the idea of a 'vocal vibration dose' much like we do with noise exposure for hearing, radiation exposure for nuclear power plant workers, or sun exposure for avoiding skin disorders," says Brad H. Story, a University of Arizona professor and former student of Titze's in the world of speech and hearing sciences.
When the teachers are hooked to the machine, they will be asked to rate their voice periodically by how tired it feels, both during normal classroom conditions and while performing a set of standardized vocal exercises between classes. "If they have any bobbles, they will have to rate how severe they are," Titze says. Titze and his colleagues will then cross-reference the teachers' voice-quality indexes with the patterns of pitch, volume and duration that they exhibited during that time period.
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