When you have gastroesophagal reflux disease (GERD), the symptom you're most likely to have is heartburn, which is the burning sensation behind the breastbone. Similarly to heartburn, the other potential symptoms of reflux, like indigestion and constipation, are concentrated in the gastrointestinal area. There is little reason to suspect that if you have GERD, your body may be affected elsewhere.

But did you know that GERD can affect your voice? Those with GERD experience the refluxing of stomach acid into the esophagus. Once there, the acid can reach the throat, where the vocal cords are, and mix with saliva to create discomfort. In addition to the burning or sour taste that most people feel in their throat, some will experience hoarseness (chronic or intermittent) or a lump, according to the New York University's Voice Center.[1]

However, just because you're having a voice problem from reflux doesn't mean you have GERD. One of the most common causes of hoarseness, according to the American Academy of Otolaryngology, is laryngopharyngeal reflux disease (LPRD), which is when stomach acid travels into your throat.[2] LPRD differs from GERD because many of its sufferers do not have symptoms like heartburn or indigestion. For those who think they might have LPRD, here are some symptoms of reflux, courtesy of the University of Texas Health and Science Center at San Antonio: [3]

  • Excessive mucus
  • Chronic cough
  • Post-nasal drip
  • Sore throat
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Prolonged vocal warm-up (for singers)
  • Loss of the high end of the vocal range

Whether originating in the gut or the throat, ways of preventing a voice problem overlap. For instance, smoking contributes to heartburn by damaging the upper airway and digestive system[4] and to voice problems by irritating and drying the tissues of the throat, leading to improper vocal cord vibration and function. One way to both prevent acid reflux and not harm your voice, then, is to not smoke.

To get rid of acid, you should simply take in less of it. This means purchasing food and drink with lower acid content. Orange juice, for example, is extremely acidic, but popular grocery store brands like Tropicana make low-acid varieties. Also, eliminating fatty foods from your diet-foods cooked in oils, butters, and greases-helps reduce the likelihood of acid reflux.

There is no doubt that a weakened voice can be a symptom of reflux, but to determine which type of reflux, and the proper ways of treating it, it's important to visit your doctor. 


[1] www.med.nyu.edu

[2] www.entnet.org

[3] www.uthscsa.edu

[4] www.heartburnalliance.com