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Swallow, swallow. gulp and gulp. Is that all the throat can do? No, the throat does much more than just swallowing. There must be much more behind swallowing.
What about breathing... how does the throat affect your breathing? Where does our voice come from? Is the throat not involved? A throat is also said to somehow connect to the ear via the Eustachian tube.
Anatomically, the throat is part of the internal neck extending to the vertebral column that consist of the pharynx, larynx, the windpipe (trachea), the esophagus and the hyoid bone (only bone available in the throat of mammals).
A throat is soft and can easily be irritated. When the throat is irritated, most people complain of sore throats, snoring and bad breath.
Due to its complexity, our study of the throat is based mainly on three main parts of the neck- the upper part (nosopharynx), the middle part (oropharynx), and the lower part (hypopharynx).
- The upper part
The upper part of the throat is called a nosopharynx. Nosopharynx is just a medical term that explains the part of the throat that connects with the nasal passages right onto the back of the mouth.
- The middle part
Also known as the oropharynx is the middle part of the throat located in the back of the mouth. You can actually see the oropharynx if you open your mouth wide. The oropharynx extends from underneath the tongue and assists us when we swallow or speak.
- The lower part
The hypopharynx extends down into the trachea (windpipe) in the neck. A trachea is that pipe made of round rings on the front of your neck that connects your mouth and nose to the lungs. Its function is to receive and expel air that you breathe into and out of your lungs.
The trachea (windpipe)
Only air travels into the trachea that is why it's called the windpipe. Other things that your swallow (food or drinks) travels down another tube called the esophagus. There's a little flap of tissue that closes your trachea when you swallow so that food may not enter the trachea. If by any means foods enter the trachea to the lungs, you'll cough heavily because your lungs cannot tolerate any other substances.
The esophagus hides behind your trachea and it cannot be felt from the outside of the neck. Only food and drinks enter through the esophagus. You cannot swallow and breathe at the same time because either the trachea or esophagus is closed when the other is at work.
Inside the trachea, we find the complex structure composed of muscles (vocal cords) and cartilage called the voice box (medically known as the larynx). When you speak, it's not your lips or tongue that creates the sound. The tone is first composed by the vibration of the vocal cords, and then your lips, mouth, tongue and entire throat make sense of those vibrations.
|Do I age with my throat and what are the risks?
As we advance in age, the vocal cords and muscles in and around the tongue grow weaker and weaker. As they weaken, our swallowing become inefficient and is delayed. We may as a result mistakenly inhale unswallowed food particles (aspiration) that may affect our trachea. Our voice and its pitch become lower and huskier (presbylarynx).
Throat disorders can lead to change in the sound and volume of a person's voice. In old people, under-nutrition and aspiration are reported as high risks related to throat disorders, since it may also impair swallowing.
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