What It Really Means When Your Voice Cracks

At some point in life, many of us have opened our mouths and started to speak or sing, only to let out a croaky squawk that seems like it should belong to someone else altogether. And no, the unnerving voice cracks aren't limited to teenage boys. Girls, and adults — just about anyone, really — can experience voice cracks when speaking or singing. No matter the age or sex, voice cracking happens for the same basic reasons.

When we speak or sing, several things are happening. The vocal cords (or folds), which are two parallel pieces of muscle tissue in the larynx, vibrate as air from the lungs passes through them. Also, the muscles in and around your larynx (voice box) expand and contract, loosening and tightening the vocal cords (via Healthline).

Voice cracks happen when these muscles spasm, stretch, or tighten suddenly. This can happen for a number of reasons.

Staying hydrated can help prevent voice cracks

Puberty is the most common time for voice cracking, especially among boys, but happens to a lesser extent among girls too. Because the physical changes to the larynx, vocal cords, muscles and ligaments in the throat happen so quickly, normal voice control can be destabilized and cracking can occur. For most, the cracking will stop around age 17, when the larynx is finished growing.

Even as adults, though, voice cracking can still happen at times. In that case, it is likely a result of strain on the vocal cords as a result of yelling, or, as is often the case with singers, vocal fatigue from pushing the voice too hard without warming up well enough (via Open Mic UK). Voice cracks can also happen as a result of dehydration, nerves (which can cause all muscles, including those in the throat, to tighten), or vocal cord lesions.

Staying hydrated, practicing relaxation and breathing techniques, and resting a sore throat by not talking or singing for a few hours, can all help prevent voice cracks.