Not to be confused with the thyroid, which is at the base of the neck, while the hyoid is as the base of the mandible. At birth, we humans have the hyoid slightly higher (and in it being higher, so is the larynx), which is why babies can breath and drink at the same time. Around three months, the larynx drops, and even though this would increase the probability of choking, it also highly increases the ability for speech. But this is not the last time the larynx will “drop;” in human males around puberty it slightly drops one more time, which gives them a deeper voice than human females. “No other animal has a larynx low enough to produce sounds as complex as our ancient ancestors did and as we do today, including our close relatives the chimpanzees, whose hyoid bone sits just a smidge too high to do anything but hoot and grunt.”
Now just because our closest living cousins do not have a low larynx, that does not mean our evolutionary ancestors and cousins did not. The first of our ancestors that is believed to be able to speak was the Homo heidelbergensis, who is “believed to be the related to both modern humans and Neanderthals.” Yes, that is right, according to fossil records we have of Neanderthals, it is likely they were able to speak. This is still a “theory,” but it is exciting to think how they would have sounded, what they would have talked about.
However amazing the hyoid presents itself, it also helps us in solving crimes. How? Well, first I must explain what the hyoid Is like. It is shaped like a U (image below), and it is not fully solid during adolescence, but once it is fused (mind you, not all hyoids fuse), it is very hard to break. Which is why in murder cases if the hyoid is broken, the primary cause of death would be strangulation.