What Is the Function of the Larynx?

Reviewed on 12/28/2020

What Is the Larynx?

The larynx or voice box serves to permit speech and allow air to pass into the lungs while blocking food and drink from entering.
The larynx or voice box serves to permit speech and allow air to pass into the lungs while blocking food and drink from entering.

The larynx, or voice box, is a part of the upper respiratory tract that is a flexible tube where air passes between the back of the nose (pharynx) and the windpipe (trachea). It is mostly made of cartilage and muscle, and is lined with a mucus membrane.

What Is the Function of the Larynx?

The larynx has several functions. 

  • Speech production
    • Also called the voice box, the larynx is comprised of two pairs of vocal folds (mucous membrane structures) 
    • Vibrations of these vocal folds allow humans to speak and sing
    • Changes in the vibration speed and tension of the vocal folds vary the pitch
  • Air passage in the respiratory system 
    • The larynx helps provide smooth passage of air from the nasal cavity to the lungs
    • Air enters through the nose and mouth when a person inhales, and travels through the pharynx, larynx, and bronchi 
    • When a person is breathing normally, the vocal cords are relaxed and partly open
    • If the body needs more oxygen, the vocal cords open more widely during inhalation 
    • If sensors in the larynx detect foreign particles that could damage the airways, a cough reflex is stimulated  
  • Channeling food into the digestive system
    • The larynx helps prevent choking when eating and drinking 
    • When food is swallowed, a small flap called the epiglottis covers the opening of the larynx to keep food and drink from entering the airways

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Reviewed on 12/28/2020
References
https://www.therespiratorysystem.com/larynx/

https://www.nature.com/gimo/contents/pt1/full/gimo7.html