|Why does helium alter one's voice?
|Question Date: 2009-05-12|
The reason your voice sounds higher when you
have helium in your lungs is because of density.
Density is the mass of an object divided by its
volume. Mass and weight aren't quite the same
thing, but if you're not familiar with the term
it's close enough. When you have a lot of stuff
(mass) packed into a small area (volume), it has a
high density. When you have less stuff per area,
the density is low. Low density things float on
top of high density things. You know that a
helium balloon rises, right? That's because the
density of helium is less than the density of air
(which is about 80% nitrogen).
this have to do with a squeaky voice? Well,
things move more slowly through denser material.
That's why it's hard to run when you're in a
swimming pool. Sound waves traveling in
low-density helium move about twice as fast as
sound waves traveling through dense air. Faster
moving sound waves have a higher pitch.
you were to breathe in a denser gas, how do you
think that would affect your voice? What do you
think a whale's call would be like if it were
calling on land?
There's a fun video of a
college professor demonstrating how different
density gases influence pitch:density_gases
in mind that many gases are toxic to breathe, so
don't experiment on this yourself.Thanks for
Your vocal cords can flap more easily through
light helium than through heavier air.Easier
flapping means faster flapping, which leads to
higher frequencies. If you wanted a deeper voice,
use argon, which is even heavier. In either case,
just be sure you take deep breaths of fresh air
afterward. You need oxygen. :-)
Good question! The pitch of your voice (or how
high or low your voice sounds) is determined by
the speed at which air passes over your vocal
cords. The faster the air travels over your cords,
the higher your voice sounds. The air we normally
breathe is approximately 78% Nitrogen, 21% Oxygen,
and rest Argon, Carbon Dioxide and trace amounts
of other gasses Earth's_atmos
Since the concentrations of air normally remains
the same, the pitch of our voice is unaltered.
When we inhale Helium from a balloon and talk
while exhaling, our voice becomes high pitched
because Helium is a very light gas and therefore
is traveling up (towards the upper atmosphere)
very fast. Since Helium is traveling fast over our
vocal cords, we get a high pitch to our voice.
I think this is because the sounds we make
involve vibration of the vocal cords...this
vibration set up sound wave that travel through
air. Now the pitch is related to the sound
vibrations that travel through air; the density
of the air affects the pitch, so if Helium
replaced air, due to the different density of He
relative to air, the pitch would be different.
Helium gas is lighter than air, which contains
mostly nitrogen, oxygen and argon gases. As
helium moves out through our lungs and we vibrate
the helium with our voice, it doesn't vibrate in
the same way that air would. There's a great and
detailed answer to this question here: click_here
Things like our vocal chords vibrate at
different frequencies in different fluids.
Picture stretching a spring and watching it
oscillate in air vs water.
This answer to your question has to do with
physics and human perception.Sound travels faster
in helium air. Therefore, humans perceive higher
pitches from voices through helium air.
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