Mechanical larynx

A mechanical larynx, also referred to as a "throat back", is a medical device used to produce clearer speech by those who have lost their original voicebox, usually due to cancer of the larynx. The most common device is the electrolarynx which is handheld, battery operated and placed under the mandible producing vibration to allow speech. Along with developing esophageal voice, robotic voice or undergoing a surgical procedure, the mechanical larynx serves as a mode of speech recovery for postlaryngectomy patients.


Initially, the pneumatic mechanical larynx was developed in the 1920s by Western Electric, which did not run on electricity, and was flawed in that it produced a weak voice. Electric devices, namely the electrolarynx, were introduced in the 1940s, at a time when esophageal voice was being promoted as the best course in speech recovery; however, since that technique is difficult to master, the electrolarynx became quite popular. Since then, many medical procedures, such as the tracheo-oesophageal puncture, were created to enable speech without continued dependence on a handheld device.

Another type of mechanical larynx is called an electropharynx.

Sometime electrolarynx can also be used for other purpose rather than just a mechanical larynx, for example to rule out fetal acidosis in condition of non reactive fetal heart tracing during labor.

See also

  • Silent speech interface

Further Reading

  • Brook I. (2010) My Voice: A Physician’s Personal Experience with Throat Cancer. Creatspace Publishing. ISBN 1439263868

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