Honk! Squeak! What the heck is that? A goose playing the trumpet? If you're going through puberty (say: PYOO-bur-tee), it could be your voice. Both boys and girls experience voice changes as they grow older, but girls' voices get only a little deeper. A boy's voice, on the other hand, may change quite a bit — from sounding like a little kid to sounding like somebody's dad!
How does this happen? The larynx (say: LAIR-inks), also known as your voice box, actually gets bigger during puberty. The larynx, located in your throat, is a tube-shaped piece of cartilage — the same stuff your ears and your nose are made from. One of its jobs is to let you talk, sing, hum, yell, laugh, and make all sorts of noises.
When a boy reaches puberty, his body begins making lots of testosterone (say: tes-TOSS-tuh-rone). The testosterone causes his larynx to grow and his vocal cords to get longer and thicker. Vocal cords are thin muscles that stretch across the larynx like rubber bands.
When you speak, air rushes from your lungs and makes your vocal cords vibrate, producing the sound of your voice. If you've ever plucked a small, thin rubber band, you've heard the high-pitched twang it makes when it's stretched. A thicker rubber band makes a deeper, lower-pitched twang. It's the same sort of thing with vocal cords.
Before you reach puberty, your larynx is pretty small and your vocal cords are kind of small and thin. That's why your voice is higher than an adult's. As you go through puberty, the larynx gets bigger and the vocal cords lengthen and thicken, so your voice gets deeper. As your body adjusts to this changing equipment, your voice may "crack" or "break." But this process lasts only a few months. Once the larynx is finished growing, your voice won't make those unpredictable, funny noises anymore.
Not only do older guys and men sound different from boys, but you can also see the difference in their necks. When the larynx grows bigger, it tilts to a different angle and part of it sticks out inside the neck. You can see it at the front of the throat. This is known as the Adam's apple.
For girls, the larynx also grows bigger but not as much as in boys, so you can't see it through a girl's skin. There is no "Eve's apple" in a woman's neck.
Everyone's timetable is different, so some kids' voices might start to change earlier and some might start a little later. Some voices might drop gradually, whereas others might drop quickly.
If this hasn't happened to you yet, don't worry. And if you're going through this now, try not to stress too much about the funny noises you make. It can help to talk to a parent, an older sibling, or a friend who's already gone through the voice change. Before you know it, your voice will sound clear, strong, and more grown-up!
Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: June 2015
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