Function of the larynx: What are the main functions of this organ of the respiratory tract?

It is an organ located in the anterior part of the neck.

It is a component of the respiratory tract and has several important functions, including phonation, the cough reflex, and protection of the lower respiratory tract.

The structure of the larynx is primarily cartilaginous and is held together by a series of ligaments and membranes. Internally, the laryngeal muscles move the components of the larynx for phonation and respiration.

Its length in the adult is 4 to 5 centimeters. It begins high in the pharynx and continues below the windpipe.

The function of the larynx is not only to give way to the air that goes to the lungs or that comes out of them, but also that of emitting the voice. It is therefore the organ of “phonation.” This task is performed by the vocal cords that are inside the laryngeal canal.

The vocal cords are made up of two prismatic musculo-membranous folds, arranged horizontally from front to back, partially closing the laryngeal canal.

The air that leaves the lungs, passing through the larynx, makes them vibrate. As the vocal cords are more or less tense, the sounds they produce are more or less sharp.

Inside the vocal cords there is a very thin muscle, called Thyro-arytenoides, the tension of the muscle is regulated by our will, it transmits the necessary orders for the inferior laryngeal nerve, in turn, it contracts.

Consequently, the glottic fissure, that is, the space between the edges of the vocal cords, widens or narrows depending on the case.

It is evident then that the air that passes through the glottis causes vibrations of varying intensity, to each of which corresponds a musical note or an elementary sound.

The timbre of the voice depends essentially on the shape of the larynx itself and can vary depending on the diversifications that affect this organ.

Main functions of the larynx

Eat and drink

The main function of the larynx during eating and drinking is to prevent suffocation. The larynx is the gateway to the trachea, the main airway to the lungs.

The trachea and esophagus, the tube that carries food to the stomach, are very close together. Both are below the area where the mouth turns into the throat.

Swallowing begins a series of automatic movements that pull the larynx up and forward and lower a flap over the opening of the larynx.

These movements prevent choking by guiding food and drink into the esophagus and away from the windpipe.

Breathe and cough

The main function of the larynx during breathing and coughing is air flow management. During normal breathing, the larynx is at rest and the vocal cords are partially open.

When the body needs more oxygen, sensors in the larynx are stimulated so that the laryngeal muscles open the vocal cords more fully during inhalation and briefly close them during exhalation.

This allows the lungs to absorb more oxygen. If unwanted particles or noxious fumes threaten the airways, sensors in the larynx can stimulate a cough reflex.

The nerves and muscles of the larynx control the opening and closing of the vocal cords as needed to help clear the airway.

Vocal sounds

Many of the primary functions of the larynx are controlled by reflexes that protect the airways. However, the main functions of the larynx associated with the voice are learned and can be voluntarily controlled.

When it is time to speak, whisper, yell, hum, or sing, the brain sends a message to the muscles of the larynx. They will work moving the vocal cords into the correct positions to create vibrations in the exhaled breath.

The words will follow once these vibrations are modified by the tongue, teeth, and lips as they exit the mouth.

The larynx is essential for life. While the primary functions of the larynx, particularly those related to the voice, have long been known, the finer details of many of its mechanisms remain a major topic of research across disciplines around the world.