The Real Reason Men Have An Adam's Apple

When you think of the term "Adam's apple," you might immediately think of a man. We usually think of men because of how the Adam's apple got its name, but contrary to popular belief, people of any gender can have Adam's apples of varying sizes. In the Biblical story of Adam and Eve, Adam eats the forbidden apple in the Garden of Eden, and a piece of it got stuck in his throat (via Verywell Health). Some believe the story could be misunderstood from a Hebrew script. Although it's a bit misleading, this is where the name originated from.

The Adam's apple, also known as the laryngeal prominence, refers to the bit of cartilage that wraps around the voice box, or larynx, which typically sticks out from the throat (via Medical News Today). It's more prominent in males than females due to hormonal differences, but it's also thought to be because of the position of the larynx.

When the Adam's apple develops

Children don't have Adam's apples, since it only develops during puberty (via WebMD). Based on how much testosterone a person produces is what determines how big it'll be, which is why it's larger in boys than in girls. However, if a girl has higher levels of testosterone, she may have a slightly bigger Adam's apple. 

As boys go through puberty, their vocal cords grow longer and thicker (via Medical News Today). At the same time, the cartilage around the larynx is also sprouting and tilting forward, eventually creating the Adam's apple. The bigger the larynx, the deeper the voice (via Healthline). This is why boys tend to develop lower-pitched voices than girls. However, this is a gradual process that happens over time, so the voice continues to experience changes as puberty progresses and the larynx adjusts. This is why boys' voices might crack or get squeaky during puberty.

What's the point of an Adam's apple?

It might sound strange, but the Adam's apple doesn't actually serve much of a purpose, according to Healthline. However, it's considered part of the larynx, which is important for a number of bodily functions.

The Adam's apple sits close range to the thyroid cartilage, which is the connective tissue just above the thyroid. While this doesn't actually affect the thyroid at all, it's considered part of the larynx. This important organ protects the vocal cords, which are necessary for speaking and making sounds. Aside from using it to communicate, it also helps swallow food effectively (via Verywell Health). As you swallow, muscles in the larynx make a flap of cartilage, known as epiglottis. It closes up, which keeps food from entering the lungs. Despite serving no real purpose, the Adam's apple is still located in front of a significant part of the body.

Why are some Adam's apples larger than others?

Variations in hormones mean that everyone has different sized Adam's apples, according to Medical News Today. Because men tend to have higher levels of testosterone, theirs are usually more prominent, and their voices may sound deeper. However, some men have lower levels of testosterone, which may result in a higher voice and a less noticeable bump on their throat. Similarly, women and nonbinary people can have higher levels of testosterone too. Therefore, resulting in larger Adam's apples and deeper voices as well.

It also has to do with the position of the thyroid cartilage, which is what protects the voicebox (via WebMD). The angle of the cartilage can dictate how adjacent it is to the larynx and therefore, how prominent it is. For most women, their cartilage tends to sit at an even level. Thus, making it appear less protrusive. Nonetheless, everybody has different body shapes and hormone levels. So regardless of your gender, your Adam's apple may look larger or smaller than someone else's.

Can women have Adam's apples?

As mentioned before, the name "Adam's apple," is a bit of a misnomer since women can have them too. Because all larynxes grow as the vocal cords develop, everyone gets at least a small amount of cartilage that expands around the vocal cords, resulting in an Adam's apple (via Healthline). But since males tend to have more testosterone, larger vocal cords, and larger larynxes, their Adam's apples appear larger and more prominent.

Everyone's Adam's apples are different, but some people may want to enhance or reduce theirs, especially those who are transgender. Facial masculinization surgery is an option for those who want more stereotypically masculine features. This is done by adding cartilage to the top of the thyroid cartilage, giving it the appearance of a larger Adam's apple. Another type of surgery, chondrolaryngoplasty, can be done to remove an Adam's apple. In this more extensive procedure, excess thyroid cartilage is shaved off. Keep in mind, this surgery can sometimes cause weakness in vocal ability and changes to the voice.