Effects of Hormones on the Larynx

Weekly Teaching Tip – May 13, 2013
by Dr. Curt Stock, ENT

The Larynx is extremely sensitive to sex hormones: ie. androgens (male hormones) , progesterone and estrogen. In a recent conversation with John Henney, he told me that the lead Soprano would always take a week off during Menses in days gone by. In the early phase of menses (Luteal Phase) estrogen increases and progesterone decreases causing increased blood flow to to the vocal fold and subsequent edema. (swelling) This situation obviously causes problems with vibration and elasticity. The nasal passages also swell causing congestion and decreased nasal patency. This situation results in decreased resonance of the nasopharyx and even more importantly a perceived change of the vibration in ones head. Just remember how it feels to sing with a bad nasal allergy or upper respiratory infection.. Towards the end of menstruation or the Follicular phase, progesterone increases and estrogen decreases causing epithelial (skin) sloughing on the vocal folds and secretions become more viscous (thick) which decreases vibratory efficiency of the vocal folds. It seems to me that we males have it easy in comparison to our counterparts. At a later conference we will talk more about the effects of Puberty, PMS, and menopause.

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