How does helium change a person’s voice when inhaled

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How does helium change a person’s voice when inhaled

In: Biology

Helium is less dense than oxygen, so when its being passed through your vocal cords, the air around them isnt as “thick” so your vocal cords can vibrate faster, which in turn raises your voice because theyre resonating at a higher frequency

Helium is around 6 times lighter than air, and that means sound moves faster (and sounds higher)

It’s a common misconception that helium makes your voice higher. Helium does change your voice, but it does not change the pitch of your voice. What we perceive as a “higher” voice is actually an auditory illusion. How helium changes your voice is much more subtle.

So, what’s actually going on?

The pitch of your voice is determined by how fast your vocal cords open and close. The gas that’s moving through your vocal cords does not affect them very much. So, if your vocal cords open and close 500 times a second under normal conditions, they will do the same thing when inhaling helium.

Now, if you were to put a microphone down your throat and record the raw sound your vocal cords make, you would hear a buzz, similar to the sound when you stick out your tongue and blow. If that’s so, then why do people’s voices sound so nice in comparison? This is due to the resonance of the vocal tract. But what does that mean?

Your “vocal tract” is all the air inside your head above your vocal cords. That’s your throat, nose and mouth. Before the gross buzzing sound from your vocal cords leaves your mouth, it has to pass through your vocal tract. When it passes through your vocal tract, it bounces around a bunch. It bounces off the walls of the vocal tract and runs back into itself a bunch. By bouncing around and running into itself, the sound changes. The term we use to describe how the sound changes when it does this is called “resonance”. So, resonance in the vocal tract changes the sound, and turns it into the nice sounds.

So, where does helium come in? Well, because helium is lighter than air, that means that sound travels faster in helium than it does in air. So, if your vocal tract is full of helium, the faster speed of sound is going to change how the sound bounces around, and that’s going to change how it sounds when it finally comes out of your mouth. It ends up making you sound like a chipmunk.

sound is made by your voice box causing the air to bounce around. because helium is really really small, when your voice box tries to bounce it, it goes really really fast. when fast vibrations reach your ear holes, it sounds like a higher pitch.

Sound travels faster in helium, faster sound = higher pitch. Same thing when listening to an approaching ambulance

There are a couple good answers in here, but they kind of miss the “like Im 5” part, so Ill give this a try.

Sound waves are basically just vibrations in air. You can imagine this as being kind of like ripples on the surface of water. The faster those “ripples” move, the higher it sounds to us, and the slower they are, the lower they sound.

Helium is six times less dense than normal air, so the vibrations can move through it with less resistance. You can imagine this as the difference between a wave going across a pool of honey, vs that same wave going across a pool of water. The water is less dense than the honey, so the water travels faster. And helium is less dense than the normal air we breathe, so the sound waves travel faster. This results in the sound created sounding higher to us.

On a related note, there are other gasses, such as Sulfur Haxefluoride, which are *more* dense than normal air, so they [make your voice sound much deeper.](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JjJOS0BpgnM)

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