Americans Speak Out, Select the "Best and Worst Voices in America" In Online Polling by the Center for Voice Disorders of Wake Forest University

January 29, 2002

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. - Results of the first online public opinion poll conducted by the Center for Voice Disorders at Wake Forest University have identified the "Best and Worst Voices in America." News anchors Katie Couric and Diane Sawyer, talk show moderator Sam Donaldson and actress Meg Ryan ranked among the 10 "best" voices in the nation while radio personality Howard Stern, comedians Gilbert Godfried and Joan Rivers, and boxer Mike Tyson placed among the 10 "worst."

James Koufman, M.D., director of the center, released the findings today while attending the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery meeting in Denver.

The specific rankings, in order, were:

The Best Voices The Worst Voices 1. James Earl Jones 1. Fran Drescher 2. Sean Connery 2. Roseanne Barr 3. Julia Roberts 3. Gilbert Godfried 4. Katie Couric 4. Bobcat Goldthwait 5. Barbra Streisand 5. Joan Rivers 6. Sam Donaldson 6. Howard Stern 7. Mel Gibson 7. Rosie O''Donnell 8. Diane Sawyer 8. Howard Cosell 9. Meg Ryan 9. Dick Vitale 10. Anthony Hopkins 10. Mike Tyson

The interactive poll was conducted between March-August 2001. Interestingly, of the nearly 3,000 votes, two-thirds were from females, and the respondents represented each age group (20s, 30s, 40, 50s, 60s) equally.

Koufman says the poll''s primary purpose is to understand how human voice affects us and bring greater attention to the problems of voice disorders. Koufman points to the fact that approximately 3 percent of Americans have voice disorders and those with voice disorders are often more disabling than hearing loss, a challenge to conventional wisdom. The poll, its results and an analysis will become a yearly part of the center''s public information reporting. The center is one of the first multi-specialty voice centers in the United States and is a leader in voice science and medicine.

Acoustical Analysis An acoustical analysis of the "best" voices revealed that Americans prefer melodious, relatively low-pitched voices with very little high frequency noise. By contrast, "worst voices" were found to be high-pitched relative to normal for the gender. In addition, they demonstrated high-frequency noise, that is, a "screechy" voice quality. Among the men in the "best" category, the average speaking pitch 126Hz (frequency of vibrations in cycles/second), which is within the normal pitch range for male speakers (normal = 110-130Hz). Sean Connery''s pitch was the highest at 158 Hz, and Mel Gibson''s was the lowest at 108 Hz. In the "worst"category, the average speaking pitch for men was 242Hz, which is quite high. Gilbert Godfried and Bobcat Goldthwait had the highest-pitched voices.

The average speaking pitch for the "best" voice among females was 201Hz, which is normal (200-230Hz). Barbra Streisand''s speaking voice was highest (228Hz) compared to Julia Roberts'' voice was the lowest (171 Hz). Among the "worst" of the females the average pitch was 262Hz, a level that is quite high. Roseanne Barr had the highest-pitched voice (377Hz).

"Best," "Worst" and Gender The average speaking pitch of males as well as females in the "best voice" categories was within the expected normal ranges for their genders. However, the average speaking pitch for males and females in the "worst voice" categories was higher than the expected ranges for both. It may be that among the female "worst voices" that their pitch is part of their comedic personae. All the females on the "worst" list have been comedians. Male speaking pitch tends to increase with age; female speaking pitch tends to decrease with age.


Voice Category Male Female Best Overall* James Earl Jones Julia Roberts Best Singer Frank Sinatra Barbra Streisand Best Actor Sean Connery Julia Roberts Announcer/Sportscaster Bob Costas Katie Couric Sexiest Sean Connery Kathleen Turner Most Distinctive James Earl Jones Fran Drescher Most Annoying Gilbert Godfried Fran Drescher Worst Overall* Gilbert Godfried Fran Drescher

*Most total votes (often in more than one category).


Best Worst Bob Costas, sportscaster Megan Mullally, "Karen" in Will & Grace Tom Brokaw, newscaster Jaleel White, actor Oprah Winfrey, talk show host Bill Clinton, former president Peter Jennings, newscaster Richard Simmons, exercise specialist Celine Dion, singer Rush Limbaugh, radio talk show host Andrea Bocelli classical singer Regis Philbin, television talk show host

For more information, visit The Center for Voice Disorders'' website,


Media Contact: Mark Wright, voice: (336) 716-3382

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