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What Is Vocology?

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  • Written By: Dan Harkins
  • Edited By: Kaci Lane Hindman
  • Last Modified Date: 23 August 2016
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With a particular concern for speech disorders and vocal chord misuse, vocology, or speech pathology, is the science of the voice — both how it is made and how it can be made better. Vocologists are schooled at several accredited institutions to diagnose problems with speech or volume production and recommend ways to improve. These professionals often work closely with speech therapists and throat doctors, called laryngologists, to provide holistic treatment for a range of speech problems.

Vocologists are sometimes most interested in working with voice students on ways to improve the value of each singer's tone, volume, control and resonance. Complex recording devices and vocology software allow for the intricate measure of each of these value factors to point out where the problems in projection or sound quality are most prevalent. This type of study is often part of a university's music therapy and music education curriculum, and it can even be used to assess whether soloists or even a choir is performing up to par, with melodic clarity and harmonic balance.

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Academic vocology efforts also frequently delve into speech disorders, including both their causes and identifying characteristics. The field provides therapists and physicians with detailed tests to isolate particular impediments in an effort to overcome them. At the National Center for Voice & Speech, for instance, research is conducted on the speech effects for Parkinson's disease as well as the treatments that could be successful. Many vocologists attempt to become experts on identifying the various conditions that cause speech impediments as well as the techniques used to combat those problems.

Early pioneers of the field include George Gates, an ear, nose and throat doctor and professor at Washington University as well as University of Iowa speech pathologist Ingo Titze. Both professions maintained early on that the field would not just deal with impediments of speech. It also would deal, they insisted, on perfecting the voice for venues such as professional singing and public speaking.

The equipment used in vocology is often focused on assessing one specific aspect of a person's voice. One recording device produces what is called an electroglottograph, which measures how much the vocal folds move during song or speech. Another device may gauge tonal quality on a pre-programmed song, or measure which parts of a choir's harmony needs added projection. Other equipment for speech therapy can analyze speech patterns and diaphragm support to recognize key areas in need of improvement.

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