The larynx

The larynx is the voicebox. It is in the neck, above the windpipe (trachea) and in front of the gullet (oesophagus). The windpipe is the tube that takes air to and from the lungs. The gullet is the tube that food goes down when you eat. The larynx is tube-shaped and about 5cm (2in) long.

The larynx and surrounding area
The larynx and surrounding area

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The larynx allows the air you breathe to reach your lungs. It has a flap of skin at the top, called the epiglottis. This directs food and liquid down the gullet and prevents food and drink from going into the windpipe when you swallow. The larynx contains the two vocal cords, which vibrate together when air passes between them to produce the sound of your voice.

The front of the larynx can be seen or felt as the lump in the front of the neck known as the Adam’s apple.

The larynx has three main parts:

  • supraglottis – the area above the vocal cords
  • glottis – the middle area where the vocal cords are
  • subglottis – the area below the vocal cords that connects to the windpipe.

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