As many of you will recall, I had to stop singing last year due to problems with my larynx. I had a diagnosis in May where the M.D. said I needed to rest my voice indefinitely and take speech therapy. After nearly a year of resting my voice I decided to seek a second opinion last week.
This specialist did a thorough exam that included putting a scope up my nose and then snaking it down my throat. While in this rather awkward situation he had me sing “The Star Spangled Banner.” It was NOT my finest performance! In fact, I may not ever be able to enjoy this song again! But he got it all on video and presented me with two postcards of my larynx when I left the office.
His diagnosis is that I have Laryngopharyngeal Reflux Disease (LPRD) because he saw granulomas in my larynx. This happens when acid reflux travels all the way up through the esophagus to the back of the throat. Yet I have never had heartburn in my life! The fact is that very few patients with this problem ever experience significant heartburn.
Symptoms of LPRD include: hoarseness, chronic cough, frequent throat clearing, pain in throat, feeling of a lump in the throat, problems with swallowing, bad taste in the mouth, referred ear pain, post-nasal drip and difficulty with singing.
It seems obvious to me that LPRD hurts your voice in at least two ways — one by irritating the larynx and the other by causing you to clear your throat more. I have been assured by at least a dozen voice teachers and doctors that clearing your throat is the absolutely worst thing you can do to your voice. As at least two of them have said — ‘you might as well just take a hammer to your vocal cords as clear your throat.’
So if you are having problems with excessive clearing of your throat, post nasal drip or losing the notes of what used to be your range — you might want to get tested for LPRD even if you have never had heartburn.
Some of the suggestions for those with LPRD include: 1) reduce the stress in your life as even moderate stress can drastically increase the amount of reflux, 2) minimize caffeine, 3) avoid alcohol, 4) wait at least one hour after eating before exercising (some suggest waiting 2 – 3 hours) 5) avoid wearing tight clothes
6) maintain a healthy body weight (good thing I just lost 22 pounds!) 7) wait at least 2 hours after eating before going to sleep and, of course, 8) don’t smoke!
It goes without saying, I suppose, that you should drink LOTS of water!!!
The doctor has started me on acid reflux medication, given me a long list of lifestyle modifications and referred me to a vocal coach who specializes in people with damaged singing voices. The coach can’t see me until April 26 but I have the date circled with a red crayon. I can hardly wait.
I hope to be singing again in the foreseeable future!