What can vortices tell us about vocal fold vibration and voice production

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Abstract

Purpose of review

Much clinical research on laryngeal airflow has assumed that airflow is unidirectional. This review will summarize what additional knowledge can be obtained about vocal fold vibration and voice production by studying rotational motion, or vortices, in laryngeal airflow.

Recent findings

Recent work suggests two types of vortices that may strongly contribute to voice quality. The first kind forms just above the vocal folds during glottal closing, and is formed by flow separation in the glottis; these flow separation vortices significantly contribute to rapid closing of the glottis, and hence, to producing loudness and high frequency harmonics in the acoustic spectrum. The second is a group of highly three-dimensional and coherent supraglottal vortices, which can produce sound by interaction with structures in the vocal tract. Present work is also described that suggests that certain laryngeal pathologies, such as asymmetric vocal fold tension, will significantly modify both types of vortices, with adverse impact on sound production: decreased rate of glottal closure, increased broadband noise, and a decreased signal to noise ratio.

Summary

Recent research supports the hypothesis that glottal airflow contains certain vortical structures that significantly contribute to voice quality.

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