Why don’t babies lose their voice from screaming?

How can a baby scream so loud and long without losing their voice?

Asked by Jon Joy via Facebook

Screaming Twice by LizaWasHere, on FlickrAmazing isn’t it? After the umpteenth hour of crying, it would be merciful is a baby ran out of steam. Sadly, they aren’t designed that way. The reason for a baby’s seemingly inexhaustible ability to howl is simple – their vocal cords are structured to withstand long periods of shrieking. Our adult vocal cords are designed for talking: a process that requires precise control of pitch and intonation. A baby has no such requirements and their vocal cords are stiffer and more robust.

The vocal cords (also called vocal folds) are thin, fibrous and contain muscle. A newborn baby’s vocal cords contain more of a substance called hyaluronic acid – which is a bit like a bulking goo. Not only does hyaluronic acid strengthen a baby’s vocal cords, it also makes them optimised to produce that – ever so painful – shrill pitch.

Thankfully, as a child develops in the first year of life, the vocal cord structure, reducing his/her screaming capacity. And anyone who has a toddler will agree, that can only be a good thing.

Answered by Dr Stu

Article by Stuart Farrimond

January 15, 2013

Doctor Stu is editor of Guru Magazine. He originally trained as a medical doctor before deciding to branch out into lecturing, writing, editing and science communication. He drinks far too much coffee, eats lots of ice cream and has a bizarre love of keeping fit.
You can check out Doctor Stu’s blog at realdoctorstu.com or his poncy personal website stuartfarrimond.com. Here's his .

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