If you look in the mirror and see something you don’t like about your nose – such as a prominent bump, asymmetry, or misshapen nostrils – you probably already know that a rhinoplasty can help you to feel more positive about the appearance of your nose. Rhinoplasty is actually one of the most complicated facial plastic surgery procedures doctors perform, and here’s another wrinkle to consider: changes to your nose shape could influence the sound of your voice.
How Nose Shape Influences Voice Tone
Why would a change in your nose make any difference in your voice, which largely originates from the vocal cords within the larynx? The sounds produced by the vocal cords are amplified and modified as they resonate throughout what is known as the “vocal tract,” which include the throat, mouth, and nasal passages. The sum total of the resonance within this tract is what creates a person’s recognizable voice.
So the nose contributes to how your voice sounds, specifically the size and shape of your nasal passages. A rhinoplasty will, in most cases, change the nasal passages in some way, even if it’s minor.
A Study of Rhinoplasty and Voice
While the concept of changing nasal passages during nose surgery having an influence on how a person’s voice sounds makes sense, one research team wanted to try to measure and quantify what difference it could make. This study, published in the February 2014 issue of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, the official medical journal of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), analyzed changes in voice quality in 27 patients undergoing rhinoplasty at two hospitals in Iran.
Participants were asked to rate several qualities of their voices before and after surgery. The study found that no change was detected in how well participants were able to use their voice on a daily basis. However, participants did report changes in the perceptions of their voice and their emotional responses to it.
Trained listeners also recorded changes in voice quality of study participants, including an increase in “hyponasality” following rhinoplasty. This refers to when less air is moving through the nose during speech, for instance when a person has a congested nose due to a cold. An exact measure of this change was not recorded.
If It’s a Concern, Talk with Your Plastic Surgeon
The short answer to whether or not a nose surgery procedure will impact the tone of your voice is that it most likely will, but in very subtle ways that very few people will notice. It is not generally a factor to be worried about when contemplating nose surgery.
The one possible exception is for those women and men who use their voice professionally, perhaps as singers, voiceover artists, or a related profession. People in these lines of work still have rhinoplasties, and still are able to achieve excellent results.
But if sounding as close as possible to the way you do now is an important consideration, you can work with your plastic surgeon to create a surgical plan that minimizes changes to the nasal cavity wherever possible. Procedures that focus more on revisions to the nasal tip are less likely to alter nasal pathways compared to “open” rhinoplasty techniques that may involve altering bone and a significant amount of cartilage.
Dr. Davis completed his residency in Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery at Stanford University Medical Center and is proud to be board certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery. After practicing for many years in the Bay Area, Dr. Davis has chosen private practice to allow him to provide the most personal and individualized patient care. Dr. Davis grew up in New England and graduated magna cum laude from Colby College in Waterville, Maine. He then moved to Rochester, NY to attend medical school at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, where he was in inducted into the Alpha Omega Alpha medical honor society.