What Do Thanksgiving and a Hoarse Voice Have in Common?

When people find they have a hoarse, weak, or raspy voice, they usually assume they’re coming down with a cold or blame it on some recent vocal abuse (e.g., cheering at a sports game, or screaming over a loud concert). Although these are definitely common reasons for poor vocal quality, there is another possible culprit that most people fail to consider: acid reflux.

The medical term for acid reflux is gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD. When a person has acid reflux, acid from their stomach that helps digest food, leaks up into the esophagus, causing heartburn. For some people, it flows even higher up and comes in contact with the throat, irritating the vocal cords and creating a hoarse or weak voice. Because overeating can exacerbate the symptoms of GERD, each year Thanksgiving week is marked as GERD Awareness Week to help raise public awareness of this very common disorder. If you’re one of the seven million people in the US affected by GERD, take a look at the following tips to help manage acid reflux and keep your voice healthy:

  • Certain positions can make it easier for stomach acid to escape. Maintain good posture while you’re eating rather than lounging back in a chair or on the couch.
  • Don’t lay down immediately after eating. All that turkey may make you sleepy, but resist the urge to nap for at least a couple of hours while you’re digesting.
  • Watch what you eat. Caffeine, peppermint, carbonated beverages and acidic or fatty foods can all exacerbate GERD.
  • Don’t overindulge. Your grandmother’s famous stuffing may only make an appearance once a year, but if you gorge yourself, you’ll be paying the price later in the day. Alcohol can also make GERD worse, by creating more stomach acid and loosening the muscles that keep acid in place.

If you find that you experience the symptoms of GERD (heartburn, regurgitation, an acidic taste in your mouth) regularly, see your primary care doctor for treatment. If you find that you’re also experiencing vocal problems as a result of GERD, a speech-language pathologist can help by providing exercises to improve vocal function and strengthen the overall quality of the voice.

If you have any questions or would like to know more about speech-language therapy, give us a call at (212) 308-7725 or send an e-mail to jayne@speechassociatesofny.com. I’d be happy to chat and answer any questions you may have.

© 2016, Speech Associates of New York – All Rights Reserved


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