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What happens during puberty that causes the deepening & squeaking/cracking (dysphonia) of a male's voice?

How does the androgen hormone change the pitch of the voice? Is it because the vocal-chords are growing during a growth-spurt? Why don't women experience a similar experience during puberty? Or are they, but it's less dramatic or noticeable?

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You are partially correct in your understanding of how/why the a male's voice deepens during puberty. Let me just clarify a few things:

  • Androgen is a hormone that stimulates or maintains male sex organs and characteristics (but keep in mind it's also present in women -- just at a lesser level). During puberty, the androgen levels increase and signal for changes to take place.
  • One of these changes (among many during puberty) is the growth of the larynx and subsequently the vocal chords become longer and thicker. This contributes to the deeper voice.
  • Because the growth occurs over a process of time (in fact, the larynx is not done growing until early adulthood), the vocal-pitch is not stabilized , and may sometimes crack. This is sometimes known as falsetto or as dysphonia as you mentioned.
  • Females during puberty also have an increase in androgen and their larynx also grows, but not nearly as substantial or noticeable as males, which is why their voices don't crack and also why they don't have adam's-apples (larynx). Also, their vocal-pitch only slightly drops by one octave or so.

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