Are you a “fryer?”
A funny name with not so comedic ramifications, vocal or glottal fry has become a popular topic in recent years. Pop-culture icons, including Kim Kardashian, Nina Dobrev, and Britney Spears are among the most frequent “fryers” almost always observed to speak in glottal fry. Glottal fry is one of 3 main vocal registers (including modal and falsetto), and is characterized by a very low pitch, and “crackled” vocal quality. When individuals drop the supportive tracheal pressure and tension in their laryngeal (voice box) muscles, the vocal cords come together in a chaotic and aperiodic fashion. This does not always indicate vocal cord pathology; rather it is a usage, or misusage, problem.
In fact, speaking in glottal fry is increasingly one of the most common modalities used in conversational speech by both men and women. Almost every individual has spoken in fry, which is common at the end of utterances or after long periods of speaking where the respiratory system isn’t optimally supporting with the laryngeal mechanism. Though there is no research associating fry with long-term damage, persistently speaking in this register may negatively impact one’s effectiveness as a speaker.
With the inception of reality TV, observing vocal quality is made more obvious viewers. It is suggested that this mode of speaking is a way in which the younger generation connotes a laid-back attitude. Despite the fact that celebrities and role models are employing fry, a Duke University study conducted on a national sample of American adults proposed that vocal fry is interpreted more negatively by listeners relative to a modal speaking voice. The study also indicated that women who habituate glottal fry are perceived in the workforce as less competent, less educated, less trustworthy, and less hirable.
While lack of tension and inadequate breath support contribute to glottal fry, a clearer voice can be maintained by breathing deeply and fully prior to speaking and increasing pitch across the span of utterances and at the end of phrases.
Anderson RC, Klofstad CA, Mayew WJ, Venkatachalam M (2014) Vocal Fry May Undermine the Success of Young Women in the Labor Market. PLoS ONE 9(5): e97506. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.009750