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Say, you don't sound that old

October 20, 2003|Dianne Partie Lange | Special to The Times

Like every other body function, the voice ages. Researchers now have identified how it changes -- and they suggest it may be possible to give yourself a voice lift.

In experiments in which 40 listeners were questioned about recordings of men's voices, Rahul Shrivastav, assistant professor of communications sciences and disorders, and his colleagues at the University of Florida in Gainesville determined that pitch and the rate of word delivery gave away a person's age.

The recordings then were manipulated so that the pitch of the older men's voices was lowered and the speed increased. The reverse was done with the young voices. This time the listeners mistook 12 of the 13 old voices for young voices. It was more difficult to alter the young voices convincingly.

Shrivastav said the research could help police identify the ages of criminals and allow undercover agents to pose as young people. Also, a person who sounds prematurely old could learn to speak more quickly and lower his or her voice.

This research will be presented next month at the Acoustical Society of America's meeting in Austin, Texas.

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