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Q: Why do I feel more air resistance after taking testosterone?

testosterone trans voice Jan 17, 2023

 This one is for my T boys: my boys on testosterone.

I want to answer the question that I've heard from a lot of you, "Why is it that when I take testosterone, I feel a lot of air resistance or a lot of pressure when I try and speak or sing?"

This is something that's really common, especially at the start of the voice journey when the voice changes start happening on T. One common thing that can happen is that you get a lot of thickening of the vocal folds.

Some very brief anatomy - the larynx is the cartilaginous tube in your neck, and your vocal folds are directly behind the bony prominence that you can feel. So, if you feel the thyroid notch, right behind there are your vocal folds. When a person goes on testosterone or has a testosterone puberty of any kind, the vocal folds thicken and get wider.

Now, sometimes the larynx also grows, so the diameter of that tube gets wider. But sometimes, especially if you're taking testosterone exogenously, the tube might stay the same size. So if your larynx is not growing, but the vocal folds thicken, then you have less space for airflow. The vocal folds are taking up more space inside the larynx and you get more air resistance mechanically. Now, this is a big concern for a lot of guys on T because, especially if you've been a singer or you use your voice for public speaking or something, it can be really distressing.

You may be asking, "Am I always going to have this air resistance?", and the answer is yes and no.

Yes, in that air resistance is always going to be there, but like anyone, you can learn how to phonate with more efficient use of air. You can try something called Straw Phonation. Take a straw with a lot of resistance and sing or speak through the straw, just like a kazoo. If you don't have a straw, you can do what's called blowfish face. Put your lips together like a straw, and you puff your cheeks out (see the video above for a demonstration). Now, if you have enough air resistance, you should be able to practice using your air more efficiently by phonating. It's exactly the same as the straw, as long as you maintain the air pressure at the level of the lips. I hope this helps!

Hi, I'm Renée! (they/them)

I'm a queer, nonbinary, and disabled singer, songwriter and gender-affirming voice teacher. 

I've been a voice teacher for over twelve years, I have four full-length albums out, and I have degrees in physics, jazz, and songwriting.

I love creating, I love figuring things out, but most of all, I love helping people.

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