How is voice produced?
This is a question that often comes up when a patient visits a laryngologist for a voice concern.
The production of voice is complex, relying on many different nerves and organ systems to coordinate with one another.
The production of voice, or sound, involves three major areas
- The lungs to power voice production
- The vocal folds to vibrate, producing sound
- The throat, tongue, mouth, teeth, and cheeks to make the sound into words.
First, through inhalation the lungs draw in air. The diaphragm muscle, located at the bottom of the chest stretches to allow for maximal inhalation. Once the lungs are filled with enough air, muscles work to expel the air from the lungs, through the trachea, and through the vocal folds.
The brain sends signals through the recurrent laryngeal nerve, to the vocal folds. This signal instructs the vocal folds to move towards the mildline. As the air passes through the vocal folds, they are drawn together and vibrate against one another. This vibration produces sound.
One can feel this vibration taking place while holding a sound, such as the letter “e” for a prolonged period of time. The vibrations from the letter E can be felt through the voice box to the skin.
The sound produced by the vocal folds is advanced towards the throat and mouth, where the muscles of the throat, tongue, cheeks as well as the teeth and lips form the sound into words that people understand.