Acid reflux is primarily considered a disorder of digestion. Typically, contents of the stomach are kept out of the esophagus by a sphincter muscle which separates the stomach and esophagus. Sometimes, this muscle loosens, allowing the contents and acid of the stomach to flow into the esophagus. Sometimes, this can go even further and flow all the way up into the throat. This condition is called laryngopharyngeal reflux (LPR).
While occasional LPR is completely normal, when it happens on a regular basis, it can affect the vocal chords and subsequently, vocal quality. Frequent exposure to stomach acid may cause irritation or small growths on the vocal chord. These can result in a weak or breathy voice.
A speech-language pathologist is often called upon to help rehabilitate the voice of individuals with LPR. First, an evaluation will be performed to determine the current quality of the voice and what may be causing any difficulty in vocal production. Then, a weak or breathy voice may, in part, be aided by speech-language therapy, in which the therapist assists the patient in exercises intended to improve vocal function and strengthen the overall quality of the voice. In addition to the provided speech-language therapy, the patient can also decrease their symptoms by avoiding certain foods which exacerbate the condition, such as caffeine and peppermint.
If you or a loved one are experiencing a communication disorder, contact Speech Associates of New York today to find a professional speech-language pathologist who can help you communicate to your fullest. Remember, early intervention is the key to maintaining and developing strong communication skills.