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Why Boys’ Voices Crack During Puberty (And Girls’ Voices Don’t)

Pubescent boys often experience overwhelming growth in their voice boxes in a short period of time, and that can be an awkward auditory transition.

The are plenty of cracks in the road from boyhood to manhood — vocal ones. Biology makes this inevitable. Boys’ larynxes grow so rapidly during puberty that they sometimes stretch the capacity of vocal cords. Like a guitar string pulled too tight, the cords issue pitched squeaks, cracks, and croaks. This embarrasses boys and provides their parents with an update on their development.

“Between the ages of 9 and 16 boys’ larynx and vocal cords grow significantly over time which makes their voice deeper,” general practitioner Dr. Nikola Djordjevic explains. “Along with larynx, cavities in the nose, throat, and sinuses become wider to enable the voice to resonate better.”

The larynx, often referred to as a voice box, is a hollow muscular organ located at the top of the neck involved in breathing and talking. The larynx has two vocal folds, or cords, that vibrate to produce pitch and volume. Men have larger voice boxes than women, which is why they often protrude, forming Adam’s apple. These voices boxes have thicker folds as well. But, prior to puberty, boys and girls both have similarly small larynxes with thin cords. Sex hormones released from the pituitary gland during puberty — notably that old devil testosterone — cause the larynx to grow and vocal folds to thicken and strengthen, deepening the voices.

None of this is unhealthy. Funny? Yes. Worrisome? No. Part of young men’s gender presentation? You bet.

“This change usually happens quite fast and boys aren’t able to control their voice properly in the beginning,” Djordjevic says. Girls voices deepen during puberty as a result of the larynx and vocal cord growth, but because women’s voice boxes are smaller overall the transition is more gradual. Since their voices are higher naturally, the change is barely noticeable. There are variations, to be sure, but most girls go through a smoother transition.

If your son’s voice is starting to crack, the best way to help him is by reassuring them it’s completely normal and should only last a few months before they start to sound more like their dads. It’s important to note that not every boy will experience their voices cracking at the same time, and some boys may not have voices that crack at all. This is nothing for parents to worry about. As much as the growth of the larynx during puberty is inevitable, it’s also very individualized.

“Not all boys will experience cracking in their voice. If they do, it won’t sound the same with everyone,” Djordjevic adds. “For this reason, not experiencing cracking, or experiencing it later shouldn’t be a sign of concern”