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An electrolarynx, sometimes referred to as a "throat back", is a medical device about the size of a small electric razor used to produce clearer speech by those people who have lost their voicebox, usually due to cancer of the larynx. The most common device is a handheld, battery-operated device placed under the mandible which produces vibrations and allow speech.[1] Earlier non-electric devices were called mechanical larynxes. Along with developing esophageal voice, robotic voice or undergoing a surgical procedure, the electrolarynx serves as a mode of speech recovery for laryngectomy patients.


Initially, the pneumatic mechanical larynx was developed in the 1920s by Western Electric. It did not run on electricity, and was flawed in that it produced a weak voice. Electrolarynxes 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.

External media
Using A New Voice To Enjoy Life After Cancer (2:54), StoryCorps[2]
Communication after laryngectomy (8:58), South East Coast Laryngectomy Support Groups (UK)[3]

The use of an electrolarynx can cause some social issues including difficulty ordering a drink in a noisy pub,[3] and, when answering a telephone, the caller responds "Is this a computer that I'm speaking to?"[2] One user states:

People are really very kind once they realize what the situation is. I may go into a restaurant once, and if I go back there a year later, and it's the same woman at the front desk, she'll say, 'Where have you been? We haven't seen you for a while.' So, I feel like a movie star...
I'm really very blessed in my life. I am happier now, without my voice, than I've ever been with my voice. It's a small price to pay for being alive and enjoying life. So I am very happy where I am now.[2]

Fictional users[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Department of Otolaryngology. "Electrolaryngeal Speech". Eastern Virginia Medical School. Retrieved 14 March 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c Forman, Rene; Nadia Reiman, Jud Esty-Kendall with radio station KCRW (2012). "Using A New Voice To Enjoy Life After Cancer". StoryCorps. National Public Radio. Retrieved February 13, 2012.  Also hear the audio at NPR
  3. ^ a b "Communication after laryngectomy". South East Coast Laryngectomy Support Groups (UK). March 9, 2011. Retrieved March 14, 2013.