Acoustic measures of Brazilian transgender women’s voices

Posted July 14, 2021

A research conducted by the team working at the head office of INCT Hormona, in Hospital de Clínicas de Porto Alegre, concluded that, through adaptations and vocal malleability and without surgical interventions or speech therapy, transgender women (people who were born but identify as female) may obtain vocal identification congruent with the female gender with which they identify themselves.

The survey analyzed the results of an acoustic vocal analysis of a group of transgender women with regard to cisgender women (people who identify with the sex they were assigned at birth). The study was published in Frontiers in Psychology and may be fully read on the following link []

According to the postdoctoral candidate Dr. Karine Schwarz, 30 transgender women between the ages of 19 and 52 years old participated in the study. The control group was composed of 31 cisgender women between the ages of 20 and 48 years. “A standardized questionnaire was administered to collect general patient data to better characterize the participants. The vowel “a” sounds of all participants were collected and analyzed by the Multi-Dimensional Voice Programadvanced system, a computerized program that assesses objective voice measures,” Dr. Schwarz explains.

According to the researcher, the study shows that transgender women performed vocal adaptations that interfere with their vocal production. “This suggest that, throughout their lives, they make muscular adaptations and speech projections that result in voices that sound feminine without necessarily undergoing surgical interventions and speech therapy”, she comments. “However, it is worth emphasizing the importance of phonological follow-up to prevent overload to the speech apparatus and to provide guidelines on vocal health,” the speech therapist warns.

Dr. Schwarz explains that the study was important, because the objective vocal characteristics found were also relevant to understand and help transgender women to be socially identified, through their voices, as women. “Comfort with one’s own voice, or vocal satisfaction, based not only on voice frequency, helps speech therapists to design the therapy plan; however, it is known that, in some cases, there is the need of vocal cord surgery, associated with speech therapy, for vocal feminization,” the researcher underscores. Acoustic measures are relevant to increase social passability and self-esteem of transgender women.