Many people may not realize that acid reflux can affect someone’s voice, causing chronic laryngitis. Most of the time, we know we have acid reflux (usually GERD, gastroesophageal reflux disease) because we get heartburn. If the acid is going further up into the throat (where it’s considered LPR, laryngopharyngeal reflux), heartburn won’t necessarily occur as the acid isn’t remaining in the oesophagus.
In cases of chronic laryngitis without heartburn, we need to look for the following:
- Bitter, acid taste in the mouth
- Feeling of something stuck in the throat
- Sore, hoarse voice which is worse after lying down
If you’re experiencing any of these, it’s a good idea to go to your doctor to verify whether or not you have reflux and to get help to relieve the reflux before it does permanent damage. Reflux is stomach acid which burns tissues that aren’t meant to come in contact with it. Any tissues outside of the stomach, such as in the oesophagus and the larynx, can be affected by reflux.
If left untreated, reflux can cause scar tissue and other maladies to form on the vocal folds as well as cancers of the oesophagus and larynx due to constant reproduction of tissues. If this has caused chronic laryngitis for you, it is a good idea to seek the help and/or have an speech therapy assessment done by a Speech-Language Pathologist (in addition to your doctor) who can help you to regain your voice through vocal exercises and proper vocal hygiene.
In the meantime, here are some suggestions to reduce acid reflux:
- Chew gum (increases saliva which decreases acidity)
- Avoid clothing that’s tight around the waist (pushes acid upwards)
- Stay away from caffeine and alcohol
- Raise the head of your bed (either with a plank board under the mattress or by using extra pillows)
- Lie on your left side (benefitting from the natural shape of the stomach)
- Lose excess weight (excess weight acts like tight clothing, pushing on the stomach)
- Avoid eating 3 hours before bed (digestion causes an increase in stomach acid production)
- Stay away from smoking
- Avoid fatty, greasy, spicy, or acidic (citrus, tomato, etc.) foods (these all cause higher stomach acid production and irritate the stomach)
- If possible, use Tylenol (acetaminophen) instead of aspirin or Advil (ibuprofen) as these can irritate the stomach
Submitted by Daphne Goold, M.A., CF-SLP, Reg. CASLPO