Learning to feel the voice - developing a voice training programme

In the ear, nose and throat clinic of the University Hospital Erlangen, researchers are investigating the basics of human vocalization. One of them is Dr. Anke Ziethe. As part of her research project, which is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) programme "Small Disciplines – Great Potential", she is developing an innovative voice training programme.

Anke Ziethe beim Eigentraining der Stimme; © Jörg Ziethe

Dr. Anke Ziethe at self-training her voice

Jörg Ziethe

"Loud, quiet, high or low – whether or not we can actually hear the sounds we produce with our voice, as well as feel them, depends on the ability of kinesthetic perception, a kind of perception of movement, in this case, of the larynx and the vocal chords," explains Dr. Anke Ziethe. "The better our kinesthetic perception is, the better kinesthetic control functions, that is, our influence on the sound produced, even if we do not hear it. This kinesthetic ability is present to a different degree in different people and can be 'trained'." This is good news, for example, for people with a voice disorder who cannot hear themselves well and who would like to be able to control their voice better even in a noisy environment.

Research Award Zertifikat; © Ziethe

"Spasmodic Dysphonia Research Award" of the of The Voice Foundation in Philadelphia (USA) for Anke Ziethe, Ulrich Hoppe, Christopher Bohr, Michael Döllinger, June 2019


In the case of a voice disorder, such as hoarseness, the relapse rate of patients is high. One possible reason for this is, as Ziethes' previous studies show, that the auditory and kinesthetic feedback mechanisms are not sufficiently effective. Therefore, she is now developing a novel training program for these mechanisms, including an app with exercises for self-training.

The tests are currently being carried out with the participation of 20 to 40 people. In order to analyse the initial situation, Ziethe carries out a comprehensive diagnosis, i.e., how the voice sounds, how well the person can control it, and how well auditory and kinesthetic control succeeds. The test persons then train their voice without hearing it (headphones and noise) for five weeks twice a week. To coin a phrase: If you can't hear it, you'll have to feel it. How well this succeeds is shown by the measurements taken after the training phase and again after three months, in order to monitor the sustained training success of the skills learned.

"With my research, I want to improve the care given to patients with voice disorders," says Ziethe. Moreover, the self-training can also be used to prevent voice disorders or for voice training by singers and speakers – simply via app!