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Is Your Throat Hoarse Today? The Cause
Might Be Gastric Reflux - What To Do ...
September 24, 2013

By Ann S. Utterback, Ph.D.
Voice Specialist
Author, Broadcaster's Survival Guide

When you make your living with your voice, hoarseness can kill your career.

I’ve had many clients reveal to me that they suffer from hoarseness when getting up in the morning that may last for several hours. Some are worried that this might be a sign of laryngeal cancer. Their anxiety is justified because any time a person is hoarse for over two weeks, cancer can be the cause. 

There are other, less horrific, diagnoses, however, that are much more likely.

My first step is to convince the client to see an otolaryngologist (ear, nose and throat specialist) as soon as possible. 


Then I explain that they’re probably suffering from a very common condition called gastric reflux or GERD, and gastic reflux is often caused by something as simple as eating too close to bedtime.

Let me explain ...

There’s a ring of muscle where the esophagus connects to the stomach that keeps food from backwashing up after it’s been swallowed. If you go to bed shortly after eating dinner, this ring of muscle may not be able to keep the food and acid from the stomach from moving up the esophagus. 

If this happens, the fluid can irritate the delicate vocal folds, which may result in hoarseness.

Other things that might cause gastric reflux are medications such as;
  • tricyclic antidepressants;
  • progestin, which often is used in birth control pills; and
  • sleep and anxiety aids. 
Certain foods, such as those with acid like tomatoes may make you more prone to reflux. Smoking and alcohol may contribute to it, too. 

In addition, gastric reflux is very common with pregnancy.


What can you do if you have this problem? Some simple lifestyle changes may be all it takes. 

First, don’t lie down for at least two hours after eating.

You can also try raising the head of your bed four to six inches by placing books or bricks under the legs. With your upper body slightly higher than your feet, the liquid may stay down.

In addition, your physician might prescribe a drug such as a Proton pump inhibitor to decrease stomach acid.

As a voice professional, hoarseness is a game-changer. You can’t get or keep many on-air jobs if you’re hoarse often. Luckily, the most common cause of chronic hoarseness is very treatable.
Ann S. Utterback, Ph.D., is a voice specialist with more than 40 years experience and has helped hundreds of people make the most of their voices, working with broadcasters, voice over artists and podcasters around the world. An author of eight books and over 50 articles on voice, her Broadcaster's Survival Guide e-book offers more tips on dealing with holiday stress, plus advice on how to improve your voice over performance by making simple lifestyle changes.

Click for: Broadcaster's Survival Guide

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Comments (1)
Erwin D. Barnes
10/9/2013 at 4:34 AM
I think that all the info you provided was very helpful to me in my quest to become a voice over talent and I am very excited about this business.For someone that suffers from stage fright but loves to talk, sing and use my voice in my many expressions I think I may have found my calling :-)!!
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