Difference Between Adult and Infant Larynx

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Difference Between Adult and Infant Larynx: Picture a high-pitched giggle and a booming laugh: the difference between an adult and infant larynx lies in size and sound. Imagine a tiny flute versus a majestic tuba. Both have the same basic structure – vocal cords vibrating to produce sound – but an adult larynx is roughly twice the size, with thicker, longer vocal cords for deeper tones. In infants, the larynx sits higher up in the throat, contributing to their characteristically high-pitched cries and coos. As they grow, the larynx descends, and their vocal range expands, eventually reaching the lower notes adults can produce. It's like their vocal instrument maturing and finding its full range!

Differences Between Adult and Infant Larynx:

Let us educate you with the difference between adult and infant larynx.


Adult Larynx

Infant Larynx


Larger in size due to full development

Smaller, proportionate to the size of the infant


Lower in the neck, below the hyoid bone

Higher in the neck, close to the hyoid bone

Cartilage Composition

More rigid and ossified

Softer and more flexible

Vocal Cord Length

Longer and thicker, contributing to deeper voice

Shorter and thinner, result in higher-pitched voice

Shape of Epiglottis

More elongated, aiding in airway protection

Relatively shorter and rounded, less airway protection

Development of Cartilage Structures

Fully developed, including thyroid, cricoid, and arytenoid cartilages

Not fully developed, cartilages are softer and more pliable

Airway Protection

Plays a significant role during swallowing

Relies more on the epiglottis for airway protection

Position of Hyoid Bone

Lower in the neck, supporting the larynx

Higher in the neck, influencing the laryngeal position


Less flexible due to matured cartilaginous structures

More flexible due to softer cartilages

Presence of Vocal Sinus


May be present, contributing to unique infant cries

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What is Adult Larynx?

The adult larynx, or voice box, is a complicated structure composed of nine cartilages, muscles, and ligaments. It connects the pharynx (throat) to the trachea (windpipe) and is located at the front of the neck, directly behind Adam's apple. The vocal cords, which are positioned within the larynx, vibrate when air travels through them, causing sound to be produced. Men and women have different larynx sizes and shapes, with men having bigger and lower-pitched larynxes.

Key Features of Adult Larynx:

  • Location: Lower in the neck, just below the Adam's apple.
  • Size: Larger, with thicker vocal cords.
  • Function: Produces deeper, richer sounds due to longer vocal cords and larger resonating chamber.
  • Structure: Nine cartilages, muscles, and ligaments form a complex framework.
  • Fun fact: The Adam's apple is actually the thyroid cartilage, which enlarges during puberty in males.

What is Infants Larynx?

The newborn larynx is substantially smaller and functions differently from the adult larynx. It is substantially smaller and higher in the neck, at the third cervical vertebrae, as opposed to the fifth vertebrae in adults. This elevated posture helps newborns to successfully nurse. Because the newborn larynx has weaker cartilage and thicker mucosal folds, it is more susceptible to blockage. The newborn airway is narrowest at the cricoid cartilage, below the vocal cords, as opposed to the vocal cords themselves in adults.

Key Features of Infant Larynx:

  • Location: Higher in the neck, at the level of the third cervical vertebra.
  • Size: Smaller and more delicate, with thinner vocal cords.
  • Function: Produces higher-pitched sounds due to shorter vocal cords and smaller resonating chamber.
  • Structure: Softer cartilage and thicker mucosal folds make it more prone to obstruction.
  • Fun fact: The narrowest part of an infant's airway is at the cricoid cartilage, below the vocal cords, unlike adults.

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Similarities Between Adult and Infant Larynx

  • The Fundamental Structure: The primary anatomical features of adult and newborn larynges are the thyroid cartilage, cricoid cartilage, and voice cords.
  • Functionality: The major function of the larynx is to produce sound (phonation) and protect the airway while swallowing in both adults and newborns.
  • Speech Development Role: Although the type of vocalisations vary between adults and newborns, both larynges play an important part in the development of speech and communication abilities.
  • Innervation: The same nerves innervate both adult and child larynges, including the recurrent laryngeal nerve and superior laryngeal nerve.
  • Connection to Trachea: In all age groups, the larynx is attached to the trachea, allowing air to travel to and from the lungs.
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How does the size of the adult larynx compare to that of an infant?

The adult larynx is larger in size, reflecting the overall growth and development that occurs from infancy to adulthood.

What are the key differences between the adult and infant larynx in terms of size?

The adult larynx is larger, while the infant larynx is smaller and proportionate to the size of the neck and body.

What common features do adult and infant larynx share in their basic structures?

Both share common anatomical structures, including the thyroid cartilage, cricoid cartilage, and vocal cords.

How are the adult and infant larynx connected to the trachea?

Both are connected to the trachea, allowing the passage of air to and from the lungs.

Are there specific features in the adult and infant larynx that contribute to their unique vocalisations?

Yes, the length and thickness of vocal cords in adults and the presence of vocal sinuses in infants contribute to their distinct vocalisations.