Why Does Helium Change Your Voice?

You might have enjoyed someone speaking with a squeaking voice. He is able to do so after having engulfed some helium from out of a balloon. This is also a common trick used by clowns and jokers. The point to ponder is: what is there in helium that renders this voice change!

Caution: Helium is Hazardous!

Be careful when handling helium; it is a detrimental gas. If inhaled directly in its pure form, it deprives your body of oxygen and the individual is likely to collapse in a matter of seconds. Brain is the most sensitive area under its attack because slight oxygen cut may damage its cells permanently.

Helium Why Does Helium Change Your Voice?

Even worst may happen! Inhaled helium stimulates the process of oxygen suction out of human body. In the lungs the helium inhaled poses a kind of diffusion gradient that would push the comparatively heavier oxygen molecules from out of lungs. That is to say, each puff of breath intake would propel the oxygen out of our respiratory system. When this state is attained, the individual stands at the verge of an unlikely collapse.

Unfolding the myth!

There are some misconceptions about the hazardous nature of helium as well. It is commonly believed that helium affects the speed and extent of contraction and relaxation of vocal tract.

Technically, if the diameter of the vocal aperture is reduced, it won’t contribute to the creation of a so-called ‘squeaking’ sound, rather it generates a whispering utterance. More clearly, there is no pitch change when a voice is uttered under the effects of helium. So, no change at all!

The only difference a helium-based speech makes is its traveling speed — it travels faster. This should not be confused with the fact that this speed enhancement increases the number of sound waves per second (the frequency) reaching the listener, only they travel faster what ever the medium be out there.

So what really changes in our voice?

While it has been construed that neither pitch nor speed of sound is affected by helium, then what is there that changes?

Research has revealed that the ‘squeaking pattern’ of sound is attributed to the production of resonance in the vocal chamber under the effects of helium. As helium provides a relatively lighter medium, sound travels faster in it. A helium intake in the oral orifice paves the way for the sound to travel faster than usual. Moreover, the abrupt shift from one medium to another results in developing resonance.

If we critically analyze different speech patterns, we notice that every indistinct speech element is composed of varying frequencies. Any alteration in speech disturbs that pattern. Resultantly, we hear as if a recorded sound has been played fast-forwarded.

Summing up, helium is not much effective for a pitch change; it actually offers a drastic jolt to the timbre (a property of sound that operates irrespective of its volume or pitch) of the sound — a change in tone or musical quality of sound.

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