Advertisement

What are vocal cords?

Vocal cords are two folds of tissue inside the larynx (voice box), located at the top of the windpipe, which are needed for normal talking, singing, breathing and swallowing. Your vocal cords open when you are breathing and close when you are swallowing or talking.

In order for you to speak normally, air flows from your lungs to your vocal cords, causing your vocal cords to vibrate to produce sound. The pitch and sound of your voice are determined by the length and tension of your vocal cords, controlled by the muscles in your larynx. Your throat, nose and mouth are also involved in shaping those sounds into words, and notes (if you are singing) and adding resonance to your voice.

If one or both of your vocal cords are malfunctioning, you will have voice problems. Some common vocal cord problems include:
  • laryngitis, a raspy or hoarse voice due to inflammation of the vocal cords
  • vocal nodules, noncancerous growths on the vocal cords caused by overuse or straining the voice
  • vocal polyps, blister-like growths on the vocal cords that can make your voice sound raspy or breathy
  • vocal cord paralysis, a common condition that occurs when one or both vocal cords don't open and close properly
See your doctor if you experience hoarseness or other voice problems that last longer than two weeks.

Continue Learning about Ear, Nose and Throat

Improve Your Health When You Reduce Unwanted Noise
Improve Your Health When You Reduce Unwanted Noise
When Simon & Garfunkel recorded their original folk version of “Sound of Silence,” they sold 2,000 copies. When producers, unbeknownst to them, added ...
Read More
How can I relieve stuffiness when flying?
Univ. of Nev. School of Medicine, Family MedicineUniv. of Nev. School of Medicine, Family Medicine
Chewing gum or making a yawning motion in the throat can "clear" the ears, which will help reduce pr...
More Answers
How can I remove earwax?
Dr. Michael Roizen, MDDr. Michael Roizen, MD
Earwax is designed to come out naturally. After it traps foreign substances-it's main duty-earwax is...
More Answers
Can Acid Reflux Lead to Cancer?
Can Acid Reflux Lead to Cancer?

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.