Why Don't People Stutter When They Sing?

NEW YORK, Jan. 25, 2013 /PRNewswire-iReach/ -- Viewers of the singing competition American Idol were endeared last week with standout contestant, Lazaro Arbos, during the premiere of the television show's new season.  But many may have been perplexed by Arbos, who spoke to judges and the audience with a severe stutter, but whose voice took on complete fluency during his singing performance.   

(Photo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20130125/CG48511)

Many people may be surprised that Arbos' stutter vanished when he sang, but Nan Bernstein Ratner, a professor at the University of Maryland and co-author of a prominent textbook on stuttering, says she would be surprised to see anyone stutter when they sing. 

"Many of the behaviors that reduce stuttering in daily speech overlap with behaviors found in singing," explains Ratner. "Speech disruptions that interfere with the normal flow of communication that lead to stuttering appear to be smoothed during singing because of the way syllables and words are linked together during this process."

Ratner is a long time supporter of the National Stuttering Association (NSA), the largest self-help and advocacy organization in the world for people who stutter. She says a number of factors– most of which scientists are still trying to understand – may explain why Arbos and others who stutter can sing fluently. 

For example, when humans attempt to produce a musical note, the larynx (sometimes called the "voice box") is used more gently than during spoken speech.  Singers are also focused on hitting each note properly, and use a tempo or rhythm. "This is the same reason speech pathologists have people who stutter use a "gentle onset" as one speech technique to enhance fluency," says Ratner.

Ratner also notes that in people who stutter, there is evidence that the left hemisphere, which handles speech and language in most people, is impaired.  In contrast to speaking, it is the right hemisphere of the brain that is more active during singing.

Research has shown the effort needed to plan a message is a factor that increases stuttering in those who stutter, says Ratner. "When someone is singing, the lyrics are well known, and there is no message planning involved."

While research continues to shed new light on the nature of stuttering and effective treatments, those who stutter often fear and avoid speaking situations due to struggle and shame. The National Stuttering Association (NSA) offers information and support through local chapter meetings, regional and national gatherings, social media, and publications. Please visit, www.westutter.org.

Media Contact:

Tammy Flores National Stuttering Association, 800-937-8888, tflores@westutter.org

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SOURCE National Stuttering Association

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