Contribution of Glottic Insufficiency to Perceived Breathiness in Classically Trained Singers

Med Probl Perform Art. 2016 Sep;31(3):179-84. doi: 10.21091/mppa.2016.3032.


Breathiness in the singing voice is problematic for classical singers. Voice students and singing teachers typically attribute breathiness to breath management issues and breathing technique. The present study sought to determine whether glottic insufficiency may also contribute to breathiness in a singer's voice. Studies have revealed a relationship between insufficient vocal fold closure and inefficiency in the speaking voice. However, the effect of insufficient vocal fold closure on vocal efficiency in singers has yet to be determined. Two groups of voice students identified with and without breathiness issues underwent aerodynamic and acoustic voice assessment as well as laryngeal stroboscopy of the vocal folds to quantify the prevalence of insufficient vocal fold closure, also known as glottic insufficiency. These assessments revealed four groups: 1) those with glottic insufficiency and no perceived voice breathiness; 2) those with glottic sufficiency and perceived voice breathiness; 3) those with glottic insufficiency and perceived breathiness; and 4) those with glottic sufficiency and no perceived breathiness. Results suggest that previously undiscovered glottal insufficiency is common in young singers, particularly women, though the correlation with identified breathiness was not statistically significant. Acoustic and aerodynamic measures including noise-to-harmonics ratio, maximum phonation time, airflow rate, subglottal pressure, and laryngeal airway resistance were most sensitive to glottic insufficiency.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Glottis / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupational Diseases / etiology*
  • Singing*
  • Vocal Cord Dysfunction / etiology*
  • Voice Disorders / etiology*
  • Voice Quality*
  • Young Adult