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The Process of Respiration

Respiration has a critically vital role in our lives. The process of respiration is essential for not only life but also speech production. Although the two are closely intertwined, the function of speech for life is vastly different from respiration for speech. Respiration is breathing moving air in and out of our lungs. The process of respiration gets oxygen to all the tissue in our body. Respiration includes inspiration and expiration. Inspiration is breathing oxygen into our lungs and expiration is the process of letting the carbon dioxide. Respiration is vital to humans during every moment of life because our bodies constantly need a fresh supply of oxygen. Respiration is an important function for our body because it supplies the energy we need to bring about all the other functions we need to maintain life. It is obvious that respiration is not only needed for speech production, but it is literally essential to maintain LIFE!! So, what happens during respiration? What structures in our body are important to the process of respiration?

There are many structures that are really important to the process of respiration. To begin we must first understand how respiration happens in our body and where. To begin we must talk about the upper respiratory tract. The upper respiratory tract consists of the nose, nasal cavity, mouth, pharynx, and larynx. The significance of the upper respiratory tract can be summarized like this, ”…our respiratory system works closely with our circulatory system in order to deliver important gases such as oxygen to our cells and tissues. And then it helps to remove gases such as carbon dioxide from our tissues as we breathe in and out” (SOPHIA Learning, 2016). The process of respiration in the upper respiratory tract begins when we breathe air in through our nasal cavity. Air can also enter through the oral cavity although rarely done so. As the air moves through the nasal cavity, it is warmed and filtered making its way down. Once air moves through the nose, nasal cavity and down through the pharynx it reaches the trachea. That is where the lower respiratory tract comes into play and continues the process of respiration.

To continue, the process of respiration begins when you breathe. When you inhale, your body takes in the oxygen from the environment. After the air makes its way through your upper respiratory tract, it makes its way through the lower respiratory tract. The lower respiratory tract consists of several different structures. The structures in the lower respiratory tract are the trachea, and the lungs. Within the lungs are the bronchi, bronchioles, and alveoli. The pick back up, air travels through the trachea (windpipe) down into the lungs through the bronchi. At the same time, your diaphragm comes into play and contracts while your lungs expand. The intercostal muscles in between your ribs also contract and are helping expand your ribcage as you breathe in and out. From a physiological view, as the air comes down the trachea into the bronchi, the air travels through the bronchiole tubes and even farther into the smaller structures called the bronchioles. The grapelike alveoli at the end of the structure allows the carbon dioxide and oxygen to move in your body throughout the blood stream and lungs. Then, just as it began, when you breathe out the carbon dioxide travels out the same as when it was oxygen that came in.

Moreover, let’s analyze the process of respiration and its importance to life and speech production. Although the process of speech is dependent upon respiration, it still differs from respiration for life. During respiration for speech, the amount of air taken in is much greater than that of quiet, passive breathing. A major difference between speech breathing and quiet breathing is expiration. “For speech, the inspiratory phase is 10% and the expiratory phase is 90%. For breathing, both are closer to 50%.” (Hearing and Speech Science, 2017). During inspiration we use approximately 40% of the respiration cycle. Respiration for speech production is an active process in contrast to respiration for life being more of a passive process. The amount of time for inhaling is greater in speech breathing than it is in quiet breathing. In respiration for life, the ratio of inspiration and expiration are almost the same while that is not true for speech breathing.

When looking at respiratory cycles, we see the differences between our active and passive breathing patterns. One of the important differences of respiration for life and respiration for speech is the volume of air and cycles of respiration. As I mentioned early, inspiration is breathing oxygen in to our lungs and expiration is letting out the carbon dioxide. During respiration for speech our respiratory cycle is different. “You need a long, drawn-out expiration to produce long utterances, and you need a very short inspiration to maintain the smooth flow of communication” (Seikel & Drumright & King, 2015). Our required textbook for this course defines tidal volume as “the volume inspired and expired during normal, quiet respiration” (Seikel & Drumright & King, 2015). Tidal volume is important to noting the difference between speech for life and speech for respiration because when we are quiet breathing we are not contracting any extra muscles and both the inspiratory and expiratory phases are almost equal. The main muscle used in quiet breathing is the diaphragm. In speech breathing, our bodies are more active, actually using several muscles because it is more forced.

To continue further, what structures or muscles our bodies use during respiration varies depending on whether we are breathing for life or breathing for speech. One difference would be that the accessory muscles of our body are not used during inspiration respiration for life During respiration for speech, there are different muscles used for both inspiration and expiration. For inspiration muscles such as the diaphragm, and both the internal and external intercostals are used. During expiration the abdominal muscles are used. During respiration for speech, “the abdominal muscles are poised for more rapid contraction to accommodate speech needs” (Seikel & Drumright & King, 2015). Because the abdominal muscles are poised, they are recurrently contracted which affects the thoracic musculature. That is especially important because it then affects the process of higher vocal intensity. The subglottal pressure is a key component to the production of speech. Subglottal pressure can be defined as “air pressure generated by the respiratory system beneath the level of the vocal folds” (Seikel & Drumright & King, 2015).

Respiration for speech provides the energy and air needed to move the vocal folds. We maintain phonation through this subglottal pressure. When breathing for speech we only use 10% for inspiration and 90% on expiration! Although you might be talking, your body might interrupt and take a breath but simply because it needs to meet your body’s needs first! Aside from all the differences between respiration for life and respiration for speech, there are also some similarities. Similarities between the two may be where respiration actually takes place. Respiration for both speech and life happen in the thoracic cavity and are to provide your body with energy.

In conclusion, the process of respiration is essential to both life and speech production. Respiration includes the process of inspiration and expiration. Respiration is important because it provides our body with the energy needed to maintain life. Important structures to the process of respiration include those of both the upper respiratory tract and lower respiratory tract. The upper respiratory tract, which includes the nasal cavity, nose, oral cavity, pharynx, and larynx. The upper respiratory tract takes care of inhaling air, warming it, and moving it down into the lower respiratory tract. The lower respiratory tract consists of the trachea, lungs. Within the lungs are the bronchi, bronchioles, and alveoli. There are many differences between respiration for life and respiration for speech. The volumes of air needed, and the pressure is one factor. As well as its respiratory cycle. Between respiration for life and respiration for speech there are the different muscles and structures that carry out each respective function. Aside from the differences, there are a few similarities between the two. One being that they both take place in the thoracic cavity and provide the body with air. Although respiration for life and for speech are different, it is a critically vital role in our lives.

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