Does your voice share your fertility with others?

October 3, 2011 by Deborah Braconnier, Medical Xpress report

(PhysOrg.com) -- Unlike members of other animal species, human females do not have obvious physical signs to show the opposite sex that they are ovulating. But research over the years have found subtle changes in women such as dressing, acting or even smelling more alluring during the times when they are most likely to conceive.

A new study published in PLoS One looked at the different and subtle changes in a woman’s throughout her menstrual cycle. Led by vocalization researcher Julia Fischer from the German Primate Center, the researchers gathered data from 23 German-speaking . They gathered a urine sample from each woman every day in order to measure hormonal changes and the precise time of ovulation. The researchers had the women record their voices daily and these were analyzed for changes in pitch, harmonics, breathiness and hoarseness.

In analyzing the voices, the researchers found that the women showed a higher voice three days before and three days after ovulation, with a lower tone being present during ovulation.

The researchers then presented a group of non-German speaking men with the recordings of the women and asked them to rate their preference of voice. They discovered no real pattern for preference and determined that what one man finds appealing is different to that of another.

One thing the researchers did discover that was consistent across the board was a voice change during menstruation. During this time in a woman’s cycle, their voice tends to become heavier and hoarser. The researchers contribute this to an increase in water retention and its effects on the vocal chords.

While many evolutionary biologists have long believed that human females hide their ovulation in an attempt to encourage faithfulness in their partners, the evidence of these subtle changes, in other studies, have shown that men may, in some way, be able to subconsciously detect when a woman is most fertile. Other studies have shown that lap dancers receive higher tips just before ovulation and reports from women in committed relationships show that their partners tend to be more attentive just before ovulation.

While the voice changes are subtle and may not even really be detectable, they may just be enough to trigger a different reaction from a male partner, even if he doesn’t know why.

Explore further: Do women's voices really allow men to detect ovulation?

More information: Fischer J, Semple S, Fickenscher G, Jürgens R, Kruse E, et al. (2011) Do Women's Voices Provide Cues of the Likelihood of Ovulation? The Importance of Sampling Regime. PLoS ONE 6(9): e24490. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0024490

Abstract
The human voice provides a rich source of information about individual attributes such as body size, developmental stability and emotional state. Moreover, there is evidence that female voice characteristics change across the menstrual cycle. A previous study reported that women speak with higher fundamental frequency (F0) in the high-fertility compared to the low-fertility phase. To gain further insights into the mechanisms underlying this variation in perceived attractiveness and the relationship between vocal quality and the timing of ovulation, we combined hormone measurements and acoustic analyses, to characterize voice changes on a day-to-day basis throughout the menstrual cycle. Voice characteristics were measured from free speech as well as sustained vowels. In addition, we asked men to rate vocal attractiveness from selected samples. The free speech samples revealed marginally significant variation in F0 with an increase prior to and a distinct drop during ovulation. Overall variation throughout the cycle, however, precluded unequivocal identification of the period with the highest conception risk. The analysis of vowel samples revealed a significant increase in degree of unvoiceness and noise-to-harmonic ratio during menstruation, possibly related to an increase in tissue water content. Neither estrogen nor progestogen levels predicted the observed changes in acoustic characteristics. The perceptual experiments revealed a preference by males for voice samples recorded during the pre-ovulatory period compared to other periods in the cycle. While overall we confirm earlier findings in that women speak with a higher and more variable fundamental frequency just prior to ovulation, the present study highlights the importance of taking the full range of variation into account before drawing conclusions about the value of these cues for the detection of ovulation.

Related Stories

Do women's voices really allow men to detect ovulation?

September 21, 2011
The voice can reveal a lot about a person - their sex, their age, how they are feeling - and recent studies have even suggested that women's voices might also contain cues that men can read about how close they are to ovulation. ...

Simple test gives accurate prediction of ovulation to help women become pregnant

July 5, 2011
This meant that the calendar method predicted ovulation correctly in only one in four women, whereas the ClearBlue Digital Ovulation test (20 test pack) predicted correctly in 99% of women over the same period.

Women's voices remain steady throughout the month

April 11, 2011
In recent years several studies have suggested that women's voices change at different times over the menstrual cycle, with the tone rising as ovulation approaches. Now a study conducted by researchers at the West Texas A&M ...

Deep male voice helps women remember

September 12, 2011
Men take note: If you want women to remember, speak to them in a low pitch voice. Then, depending on what they remember about you, they may or may not rate you as a potential mate. That's according to a new study by David ...

Recommended for you

People with prosthetic arms less affected by common illusion

January 22, 2018
People with prosthetic arms or hands do not experience the "size-weight illusion" as strongly as other people, new research shows.

Intensive behavior therapy no better than conventional support in treating teenagers with antisocial behavior

January 19, 2018
Research led by UCL has found that intensive and costly multisystemic therapy is no better than conventional therapy in treating teenagers with moderate to severe antisocial behaviour.

Babies' babbling betters brains, language

January 18, 2018
Babies are adept at getting what they need - including an education. New research shows that babies organize mothers' verbal responses, which promotes more effective language instruction, and infant babbling is the key.

Inherited IQ can increase in early childhood

January 18, 2018
When it comes to intelligence, environment and education matter – more than we think.

College branding makes beer more salient to underage students

January 18, 2018
In recent years, major beer companies have tried to capitalize on the salience of students' university affiliations, unveiling marketing campaigns and products—such as "fan cans," store displays, and billboard ads—that ...

Modulating molecules: Study shows oxytocin helps the brain to modulate social signals

January 17, 2018
Between sights, sounds, smells and other senses, the brain is flooded with stimuli on a moment-to-moment basis. How can it sort through the flood of information to decide what is important and what can be relegated to the ...

2 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

ROBTHEGOB
not rated yet Oct 03, 2011
Lap dancers here get bigger tips when the men are drunker - how's that for scientific research?
JaeKyung
not rated yet Oct 04, 2011
Doesn't the normal mood of the day also change one's pitch?

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.