(CBS) Are young women's voices sounding a bit more "creaky" these days? New research suggests lots of young women are taking a lead from pop stars Ke$ha and Britney Spears by rolling their voice into low, creaky, back-of-the-throat sounding vibrations.
It's known as "vocal fry" among speech experts, and celebrities including Kim Kardashian are accused of fueling its presence in young women. The study's authors say vocal fry is sometimes considered a speech impediment, but they and their colleagues are hearing it more than ever (Click here for some vocal fry impressions).
For the study, published in the Journal of Voice, Long Island University researchers enlisted 34 native English speakers and recorded them reading sentences. Speech pathologists analyzed the recordings for vocal fry. What did they find? More than two-thirds of the women broke into vocal fry at the end of sentences.
"Young students tend to use it when they get together," study author Dr. Nassima Abdelli-Beruh, assistant professor of speech sciences at Long Island University, told Science magazine. "Maybe this is a social link between members of a group."
Abdelli-Beruh called the patterns "normal" and said vocal fry won't likely cause long-term damage because the women in the study didn't do it after every sentence.
Is vocal fry spreading like wildfire?
Dr. Milan R. Amin, director of the NYU Voice Center and associate professor of otolaryngology at NYU Langone Medical Center, and his colleague Dr. Ryan C. Branski, assistant professor of otolaryngology at NYU Langone, told CBS News they've heard many complaints from voice trainers who say kids are constantly slipping into a creak.
"We spend every day in the clinic trying to improve people's efficiency to get the most sound of their mouths for the least amount of work," Branski told CBS News. Vocal fry, he said, is an inefficient way to speak.
Branksi said women's vocal cords vibrate hundreds of times per second, but vocal fry is a "super slow oscillation" of cords. It's an inefficient and "inherently traumatic" way to speak because you're using muscles in the throat and neck that aren't supposed to be used for speech, which causes strain, he said. That creaking, clicking sound? It's the sound of vocal cords banging against each other.
"Making voices is supposed to be easy, it's physics," Branski said.
Don't pin this phenomenon on just women either. "I bet younger males are doing it as well," Branski said.
Dr. Amin says there's no evidence that vocal creaking can cause long-term damage. In fact, he says it "might go away when you get older" because of changes to vocal cord anatomy that make it more difficult to do a vocal fry.
Other experts weren't swayed by the study.
"These 'low creaky vibrations' have been common since forever," Dr. Mark Liberman, director of the linguistic data consortium at the University of Pennsylvania wrote on the "Language Log" blog. "This tiny bit of evidence is certainly consistent with the traditional view that vocal fry has long been a common feature of sentence-final low pitches in American English. Whether there's a generational effect...remains to be seen"
Tell us if you've noticed more people speaking with vocal fry.