The larynx (pronounced ‘lair-inks”), also called the voice box, houses the vocal cords. The latter are two small folds of mucous membrane encasing cartilage and muscle that vibrates—giving voice to well, our voice! Normally the vocal cords open and close smoothly, paving the way for us to talk, whisper, shout and/or sing. Any change in the airflow, which is generated by the lungs exhaling air across the vocal cords, affects the voice and quality of sound.
When the larynx is inflamed—the result of over-use, irritation, or infection—the illness called laryngitis occurs. This makes the voice hoarse, raspy or too soft to hear. The inflammation can also cause a sore throat, mild fever, and headache. Laryngitis typically manifests quickly and is short term. When it lasts longer than two or three weeks, however, it is considered chronic and may be caused by more severe problems.