Jet engines help save human voice

February 20, 2012 9:19:19 AM PST
What is the human voice made of? Very simply- the muscles of the larynx, air, space and the articulators (tongue, teeth, palate, lips). These components interact with each other to produce your unique vocal sound.

Voice is produced by vibration of the vocal folds. The vocal folds are a pair of pliable shelves of tissue that stretch across the top of the trachea. They are enclosed within the thyroid cartilage, which is the hard structure that forms the mass in the neck known as the Adam's apple. The vocal folds, together with the muscles and cartilages that support them, are known as the larynx. ( Source: (

BACKGROUND: The larynx, also known as the voice box, is located in the neck and plays a crucial role in speech and breathing. It has three important functions including; control of the airflow during breathing, protection of the airway, and production of sound for speech. Larynx injuries account for only 1 in every 22,900 emergency room visits each year. Although rare, larynx injuries can result in serious problems including impairment of voice production and difficulty breathing. (Sources:,

INJURIES: Symptoms of larynx injuries include difficulty breathing, difficulty speaking, difficulty swallowing, and hoarseness. (Source: Although injury to the laryngeal nerves is uncommon it can occur from car accidents, neck or chest surgery complications, breathing tube complications, viral infections that affect the nerves, and tumors in the neck or upper chest. (Source:

TREATMENT: Treatments for larynx injuries vary depending on the cause of the injury. In some cases, no surgery may be needed and the nerve may recover on its own. In the case that surgery is needed, doctors attempt to change the position of the paralyzed vocal cord to improve the voice. This can be done with; arytenoid adduction (stitches to move the vocal cord toward the middle of the airway), injections of collagen, or gel foam. Jet engines have provided insight into the flow patterns of the human voice and have helped give some patients their voices back. Vortices may help explain why individual voices are different and can have a different richness and quality to their sound. According to Doctor Sid Khosla, when surgery is required to treat voice disorders, it's primarily done on the vocal cord. He also says, knowing there are additional sources that affect sound may open up a whole new way for us to treat voice disorders (Source:, UC Health News)


Sid Khosla, MD UC Health Professional Voice Center.