The Aging Larynx
The larynx, like any other part of the body, changes as we grow older. Many of these alterations are unnoticeable, however, some changes with age can affect the quality and sound of the voice.
Aging affects many structural and physiological aspects of the larynx. As we grow older, the framework cartilage becomes stiffened with calcium deposits, and the articular cartilages responsible for vocal fold movement become less mobile. The vocal folds may thin and atrophy, causing a loss of normal tension. The vocal folds may also bow, creating a glottal gap that can affect voice production. The muscles of the larynx, too, may begin to atrophy and are less able to produce and control vocal fold movement. Changes to the brain and spinal cord may also affect neurologic control of the laryngeal muscles. In addition, the blood supply to the larynx decreases with age and may accelerate these changes.
Alterations in the perceptual quality of the voice occurs because of these anatomic and physiologic changes. Hoarseness, lowered pitch, imprecise articulation and breathiness are all characteristic of the older voice.