You might have heard of the larynx, or your voice box.
But you might not know what exactly it does, or how it works.
This article will help you understand the role of your larynx and why it’s important.
Keep reading to find out more.
What Is Your Larynx?
Along with your vocal folds, your larynx is part of the vibratory system, which is one of the three subsystems that allow you to speak and sing.
The other two subsystems are the air pressure system and the resonating system.
The larynx causes your vocal chords to vibrate, changing air pressure to sound waves.
This produces “voiced sound,” which is what you can hear.
It also allows you to perform several vital functions, such as breathing, swallowing food, and coughing.
The larynx does this by opening and closing your glottis, which is the space between the two vocal folds, at the right moments.
When you breathe, the larynx opens the glottis by parting the vocal folds (more on those later in this article!)
When you swallow food, the larynx closes your glottis.
This mechanism prevents you from choking, as the vocal folds are brought to the center.
When you get the urge to cough, it’s your larynx that closes the glottis and then opens it so you can expel air as you cough.
When speak, your larynx closes your glottis and adjusts vocal fold tension, which allows your vocal folds to vibrate during speaking and singing.
If you put your hand to your throat while speaking, you can feel this vibration for yourself.
Adjusting the vocal fold tension also allows change the pitch of your voice, as well as its volume.
What Are The Parts Of Your Larynx?
The larynx is comprised of several smaller parts, which are the cartilages, muscles, nerves, and vocal folds.
Each one has a distinct function within the vibratory system.
Keep reading to learn more about each of them.
There are three cartilages within the larynx: the thyroid cartilage, the cricoid cartilage, and the arytenoid cartilages, which are left and right cartilages.
The thyroid cartilage makes up the front part of the larynx.
The front most part of the thyroid cartilage is also known as the “Adam’s apple” of your throat.
The thyroid cartilage is also where the vocal chords are located, and these are attached just below the Adam’ s apple.
The cricoid cartilage is located below the thyroid cartilage and has a ring-like, front-to-back structure.
It becomes taller at the back of the voice box and serves as a platform for the arytenoid cartilages.
The arytenoid cartilages are a pair of small, pyramid-shaped cartilages.
They connect with the cricoid cartilage at the back of the vocal folds.
The arytenoid cartilages and the cricoid cartilage form the cricoarytenoid joint.
In addition to the cartilages, the larynx also has several muscles, which are named for the cartilages that they are attached to.
The thyroarytenoid muscle, lateral cricoarytenoid muscle (R & L muscles), and the Inter-arytenoid muscle (transverse and oblique) help to position the vocal folds in the midline when you are speaking.
The posterior cricoarytenoid muscle moves the vocal folds apart and opens the glottis.
It is attached to cricoid and arytenoid cartilages and also plays a role in breathing.
The vocalis muscle, which is derived from inner and deeper fibers of thyroarytenoid muscle, adjusts the length and tension of the vocal folds.
It also alters vocal fold tension/relaxation during speaking or singing and is important in voice production.
The cricothyroid muscle is attached to cricoid and thyroid cartilages and tilts the thyroid cartilage, which increases the tension of vocal folds.
The cricothyroid muscleplays a role in high-pitched singing and in the pitch glide of singing.
These are the muscles that a child with childhood apraxia of speech has trouble sending signals from their brain to.
There are several nerves that send signals through the muscles of the larynx.
All the muscles except the cricothyroid muscle receive input from the recurrent laryngeal nerve (RLN), whereas the cricothyroid muscle receives input from the superior laryngeal nerve (SLN).
The RLN takes its name from the fact that it travels down the left side of the body into the chest, and comes back up (recurs) into the neck, ending at the larynx.
The RLN has a long path and a short path.
The long path of the RLN is a circuit that goes through the chest.
The short path of the RLN continues in the upper chest and loops around the right subclavian artery, just behind the clavicle (collarbone), then travels the short distance in the neck to the larynx.
The larynx houses the left and right vocal folds.
The vocal folds include three distinct layers that work together to produce vocal fold vibration.
The covering/mucosa is a loose structure that is key to vocal fold vibration during sound production.
The epithelium, basement membrane, and superficial lamina propria (SLP) all make up the covering/mucosa.
The vocal ligament includes the thyroarytenoid muscle.
This muscle helps close the glottis and regulate tension of the vocal folds during speaking and singing.
The medial portion of this muscle is also called the vocalis muscle, which is itself composed of the intermediate lamina propria and the deep lamina propria.
The deep lamina propria contains collagen fibers that are stronger and more rigid than the superficial lamina propria.
Book Your Appointment With District Speech
If you have questions about your larynx or are concerned that it might not be functioning the way it is supposed to, District Speech can help.
Book an appointment with us today and you’ll have the opportunity to meet with one of our trained speech therapists.
At your appointment, you’ll have the opportunity to tell your speech therapist about your speech challenges and needs.
Your speech therapist will work with you to come up with a plan that will help you reach your speech goals.
Book an appointment with us today.
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Washington, DC 20005
District Speech and Language Therapy specializes in speech therapy, physical therapy, and occupational therapy solutions, for both children and adults, in the Washington D.C and the Arlington Virginia areas.