No answer to the interesting question of whether or not vocal cords can atrophy over time. Any ideas?

And while you’re at it, do any other parts fall off from disuse?

Well, I don’t personally feel like investing a LOT of time and effort in this, but a quick Google check of “larynx atrophy” popped this up, FWIW.


PDF file viewed as HTML, God bless Google. :smiley:

Worth noting, I think, that speech isn’t the only thing the vocal folds are used for. The “purpose” of the muscles and cartilages involved (please excuse my teleology here) is to close off the airway - which allows you to block noxious gases from your lungs, and to use all your chest muscles for things other than respiration (heavy lifting, for instance). The vocal folds can also be banged rapidly together to make noises, but that’s not all they’re “for”, or even what they’re originally “for” at all (again, excuse my teleology).

Anything will atrophy if you don’t use it, but, for you never to use your vocal folds, you’d have to give up talking, holding your breath, and any sort of serious physical exertion involving your upper body. Unless Trappist monks also foreswear moving furniture or opening jam jars, I reckon their vocal folds are pretty safe.

(Most of the above recollected dimly from, um, introductory text in experimental phonetics by a guy named Hardcastle.)