Your Child's Changing Voice
Along with obvious changes in physical appearance that come with puberty, your child’s voice will start sounding a whole lot different too.
As the body goes through puberty, the larynx (or voice box) grows larger and thicker. It happens in both boys and girls, but the change is more obvious in boys. Girls' voices only deepen by a couple of tones and the change is barely noticeable. Boys' voices, though, start to get much deeper.
The Changing Larynx
It's the larynx (or voice box) that's causing all that noise. As the body goes through puberty, the larynx grows larger and thicker. It happens in both boys and girls, but the change is more evident in boys. Girls' voices only deepen by a couple of tones and the change is barely noticeable. Boys' voices, however, start to get significantly deeper.
The Science Behind the Squeaking
The larynx, which is located in the throat, plays the major role in creating the sound of the voice. Two muscles, or vocal cords, stretch across the larynx, kind of like rubber bands.
When a person speaks, air rushes from the lungs and makes the vocal cords vibrate, which in turn produces the sound of the voice. The pitch of the sound produced is controlled by how tightly the vocal cord muscles contract as the air from the lungs hits them. If you've ever plucked a small, thin rubber band, you've heard the high-pitched twang it makes when it's stretched. A thicker rubber band makes a deeper, lower-pitched twang. It's the same process with vocal cords.
Before a boy reaches puberty, his larynx is pretty small and his vocal cords are kind of small and thin. That's why his voice is higher than an adult's. But as he goes through puberty, the larynx gets bigger and the vocal cords grow longer and become thicker. Also, the facial bones begin to grow. Cavities in the sinuses, the nose, and the back of the throat grow bigger, creating more space in the face — which gives the voice more room to resonate.
As a boy's body adjusts to this changing equipment, his voice may "crack" or "break." This process lasts only a few months. When the larynx is finished growing, your son's voice won't make unpredictable squeak or cracking sounds.
A Normal Stage of Growth
Those croaks and squeaks in a boy's voice are just a part of this normal and natural stage of growth.
As puberty continues, his body adjusts to the new size of the larynx, and the croaks and squeaks begin to taper off. After that, the new, deeper voice becomes much more stable and easier to control.
When his larynx grows bigger, it tilts to a different angle inside the neck and part of it sticks out at the front of the throat. This is the "Adam's apple." In girls, the larynx also grows bigger but not as much as a boy's does, which is why girls don't have prominent Adam's apples.
Everyone's timing is different, so some boys' voices might start to change earlier and some might start a little later. A boy's voice typically begins to change between ages 11 and 14½, usually just after the major growth spurt. Some boys' voices might change gradually, whereas others' might change quickly.
If your son is concerned, stressed, or embarrassed about the sound of his voice, let him know that it's only temporary and that everyone goes through it to some extent. After a few months, he'll sound just like an adult!
- Understanding Puberty
- Talking to Your Child About Puberty
- Your Child's Growth
- A Parent's Guide to Surviving the Teen Years
- I'm Growing Up - But Am I Normal?
- Your Changing Voice
- All About Puberty
- What's an Adam's Apple?
- Boys and Puberty
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
© 1995- KidsHealth® All rights reserved.
Images provided by The Nemours Foundation, iStock, Getty Images, Veer, Shutterstock, and Clipart.com.