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DocSpot: Breaking voice

Dear Dr Margaret
At what age does a boy’s voice change? What actually happens?

It is difficult to answer this question, because the age at which a boy’s voice changes varies a lot. The change commonly occurs between age 13 and age 15, but in some boys it is earlier or later than this. The earliest change in puberty is an in crease in the size of the testicles (balls), followed by growth of the penis. Hair starts to grow at the base of the penis, and the skin of the scrotum becomes more wrinkly and darker in colour. Soon you start to grow rapidly, and it is during or after this stage that the voice tends to change.
 

Your voice box

At the front of your neck you have a ‘voice box’ (also known as larynx or Adam’s apple). The voice box acts like a musical instrument. It has two cords stretched across it, the vocal cords. These are like elastic bands. When air from your lungs passes through the voice box, the cords vibrate producing the sound of your voice.
 
During puberty (the years when you change from being a child to a man), your testicles produce increasing amounts of testosterone hormone. This testosterone makes the voice box grow and change shape. The vocal cords become larger and thicker, and therefore vibrate at a lower frequency when air passes over them. The lower frequency gives you a deeper voice.
 
In some boys the change seems to occur slowly, and the voice gradually becomes deeper. However, many boys experience a sudden change over just a few weeks or months. If this happens to you, your voice may be high (warbling) one minute and low (croaky) the next minute. Controlling the pitch of your voice can be a struggle, and you may feel embarrassed. But before long, your voice will even out. By age 20, you will almost certainly have acquired your adult voice.
 

Girls too

Girls’ voices also change during puberty. Their voice becomes more breathy or husky, and may deepen by a couple of tones (whereas a boy’s voice can fall by an octave). At this time, girls often have difficulty singing at an accurate pitch.
 

Last updated; Thursday, March 2nd 2017


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