The larynx or voice box, is a muscular tube in the throat of all mammals and some reptile and amphibians. It contains the vocal cords, which produced sound that is converted into speech and other utterances by the lips, teeth, and tongue. Birds do not have a larynx , but most have a modified portion of the wind pipe called the syrinx with which they vocalize.

The larynx has several segments of firm, elastic cartilage held together by muscle and ligament. The largest segment, the thyroid cartilage, consists of two plates that form a ridge, called the “Adam’s Apple.” The larynx extend from the pharynx (throat) above the tracheae (windpipe) below.

In mammals, including humans, the larynx has a flap-like structure, the epiglottis, at its inlet. The epiglottis caused swallowed food to pass from the throat into the esophagus rather than into the tracheae.

The vocal cords, located in the upper region of the larynx, are two muscularized fold of mucous membrane that extend from the larynx wall. The gap between the fold is the glottis. Each fold encloses an elastic vocal ligament and muscle, which controls the tension and rate of vibration of the cords as air passes through them. In normal breathing the vocal muscles are held slack, allowing air to pass in and out of a wide slit. The tighter the vocal muscle contract the vocal cords, the higher the tone the sound produced.

Cancer or other growth sometimes necessitate removal of the larynx, an operation known as a larynxgectomy. After such an operation a patient usually breathes through a surgically formed opening in the neck. The patient may be taught to use gullet tissue to produce sounds that are then modified by the mouth structure to yield recognizable speech.


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