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What is the Adam's Apple?

What is the Adam's Apple?

The human body is an interesting interplay of hard and soft. The hard parts, like bones, typically have two main roles – provide structure/form and to protect softer, more vulnerable tissue layers. And, that’s exactly what the Adam’s apple does. It provides a little structural support and protection for the soft, larynx (voice box) that lives inside of it.

Cartilage comprising the Adam’s apple is an extension of thyroid cartilage, so it also helps to protect the thyroid, located below the Adam’s apple at the front base of the neck. The name, “Adam’s apple is a biblical reference, connecting the story of Adam eating the forbidden apple Eve offered him. According to the story, after Adam ate the apple, it became lodged in his throat.

The size of your Adam’s apple depends on the size of your voice box

Your voice box and vocal chords work similarly to a set of pipe organs. As such, the larger the pipes, the lower the sound the vocal chords make.

So, while it’s true that men are more likely to have Adam’s apples, it’s also true that some women with deeper voices can have smaller versions, too. This is because the larger the voice box, the larger the larger the Adam’s apple. However, there are cases where women have too much testosterone, in which case the combination of an enlarged Adam’s apple and other symptoms (such as excess hair and/or thinning hair, following male baldness hair patterns) warrant a visit to a physician.

Adam’s apples typically emerge during puberty

From birth to adolescence, both male and females have larynxes that are similar in size – and no Adam’s apples. Instead, they thyroid cartilage forming a protective shield for their larynx is roughly the same size.

During puberty, however, the male larynx grows in response to elevated testosterone, and increased vocal chord size, the reason men’s voices growing deeper as they move through puberty and into adulthood. When the voice box grows, so does that protective layer of Thyroid cartilage.

But again, the thyroid cartilage that encases the voice box can also grow if a female has a larger voice box (taller women may have larger voice boxes and more visible Adam’s apples, although their Adam’s apple isn’t nearly as prominent as a male counterparts’).

The size of an Adam’s apple doesn’t affect eating, speaking or thyroid function

As with any part of the body, some Adam’s apples are smaller and others are larger – and that’s par for the course. Within this normal spectrum, the Adam’s apple does not enhance or detract from the typical body functions of eating, swallowing, speaking or thyroid function.

Size doesn’t matter, but they can be surgically altered

Unless there’s an anatomical issue, the size of a person’s Adam’s apple is irrelevant. However, there are cases where people opt to have them surgically altered.

  • Make it larger. Men who use plastic surgery to masculinize their bodies (pectoral or ab implants, for example) may opt to enlarge their Adam’s apple to make it more prominent. Also, transgender men may decide to have their Adam’s apples enlarged during their transition.
  • Make it smaller. On the flip side, men who have a larger-than-normal Adam’s apple can undergo chondrolaryngoplasty, which removes excess cartilage. Transgender women may undergo a chondrolaryngoplasty during their transition so their Adam’s apple is no longer prominent at all.

If you’re interested in discussing surgical options for your Adam’s apple, or you fear what is (or isn’t!) happening to your Adam’s apple is out of the norm, schedule an appointment with the ENT specialists here at Palouse Specialty Physicians.

Published on February 13, 2019