Vocal abuse in rock-and-roll singers
Eugene M. Batza, Ph.D.
Department of Otolaryngology, Section of Speech Pathology
ROCK-AND-ROLL music, because of its extremely high sound intensities, poses a serious threat to the hearing of its creators, according to a recent report by Jerger and Jerger.1 It would seem that some of those young singers are placing themselves in double jeopardy. Characteristically, contemporary rock-and-roll musical groups generate intense sound levels not only instrumentally but often vocally in competition with their instruments. The empiric conclusion that these singers probably abuse the vocal mechanism is not unreasonable. Excessive laryngeal muscular contraction obviously characterizes the voice production of many a rock-and-roll artist.
Vocal abuse is an inevitable byproduct of certain factors that seem to predominate in rock-and-roll entertainment today, and it is proposed that many of these young singers are particularly vulnerable to vocal injury for a number of reasons. First, there is the aforementioned tendency to sing excessively loudly. Despite electronic amplification of the voice, instrumental intensity is so high that anything less than maximum vocal output must certainly seem inadequate to the singer. The effects of auditory masking on vocal intensity are well known.
In addition, the high sensory input (and no doubt the use of a drug in some cases) seems to generate an emotional frenzy that impels the singer to even greater vocal output. For special effect, he may emit a shriek or, playing on vocal nuance, purposely modify the tone in such a way that a cacophonous timber, strongly suggestive of excessive paraglottic constriction, is heard.
The vocal intemperance of the young . . .