May 7, 2014

The silent voice killer

Did it ever happen to you to vocalize before a show, find that you are absolutely fine only to get tired, without cause and suddenly during a performance? If you are not sick and didn’t strain your voice then there is quite a big probability that you are suffering from acid reflux.

Basically the stomach produces acid in order to digest the foods you digest. Sometimes this acid, in liquid or gas form, can travel up your food pipe and end in your larynx wrecking your throat and voice.  Indeed I rate acid reflux as the worst affliction a singer can have after tracheitis and laryngitis.

If you suspect that you suffer from the condition do contact your doctor who, if indicated, will probably put you on some “proton pump inhibitors” to lower the acid your body makes. This medication will help but its also good to rely on a good diet with foods that don’t trigger a surplus of acid. Personally I find fried foods, bread and over indulgence of alcohol to be the worst. Bananas, rice and whole wheat pasta bring some relief.  The medication “Gaviscon” will become your best friend and sleeping with a “raised” pillow is also a must together with not eating after 6pm.

Remember that tight costumes and stress in general can also cause an upsurge in acid and never persist on singing with a feeble voice as this can only worsen the condition.


  1. Richard Best

    Singing the ‘Verdi Requiem’ in Graz Austria in the middle of a glorious summer day, came to grief. The temperature that day was in the 90’s. BUT the temperature in the cavernous stone cathedral was in the 40’s or 50’s. My voice had been fine..outside. Got to the ‘Confutatis’ and NO sound, but a rasp, came out. Felt like sinking into the earth in front of a huge crowd. Especially after the conductor looked at me as if had committed a mortal sin! In retrospect, the sudden voicelessness was all due to the rapid change of temperature. So, singers beware.

    Richard bass ‘MET’ 1964-1984

    • admin

      Hi Richard,

      So great to have you here! What you experiences might have been a severe case of ‘vasomotor rhinitis’… terrible but these things do happen.

  2. Judith Milardo

    Dear Joseph,
    There is a procedure for this condition, called fundo plication, or The Nissan Wrap. I have had this done. It is very fast and quick with very little recovery time. In the U.S., where I live, insurance companies do not want to pay for this procedure, and would like to keep you on the medications for your lifetime. I was able to get the procedure because I am a singer “by profession.”
    The procedure involves hoisting up the esophagus and re-wrapping the muscle at the type which has loosened, allowing the acid to back up. It works. It doesn’t last forever, but…. It has helped me immensely. ;-}

    • Cordelia Weil

      Hi Judith,
      I hope this will reach you somehow… My doctor is considering surgery for my reflux issues. PPIs don’t seem to help anymore. Esp as a professional singer it seems like the best option, but I’m worried about recovery time etc. My doctor said that after max. 3 weeks I can do everything incl. extreme sports if I wanted to. Could you please tell me more about how long it took you to completely recover from the surgery, when you could start singing again, when could you work full time again, did you have to make any (temporary or long term) dietary or general lifestyle adjustments afterwards etc etc? Thank you very much in advance! Cordelia

  3. Kiki

    Dear Joseph, nice, you guide us into your world and let us be aware of the other side of aria’s. Acids problems can also caused by reflux of the diafragma. I hope you don’t suffer this problem.
    I wish you and all your love-oness a good health but most of all love and happiness. Warm regards, Kiki

  4. Alice

    Very nasty to suffer with this, especially for a singer!

    My Consultant is behind an innovative project of setting up an Oesophageal Manometry/pH monotoring service St Peters Hospital, Chertsey, to help further diagnose reflux problems and they are making headway. Great such services are being set up, both as a help/service to patients and to further research.

    Have had to take Gaviscon whilst in hospital and it is absolutely horrid, so am not the least envious of those having to take it regularly.

  5. Sue

    Hello. Many suffer from this and I’m glad you posted information for those who do. By the way, when might you be headed to San Francisco, California to perform? We love all your recordings and would like to see a fellow Maltese in our area.

  6. A. Soprano

    Dear Mr. Calleja.

    Another voice killer is Symbicort. I learned this the hard way as I’m asthmatic and was put on it early last year. I thought I was in heaven when I could laugh, cough run exercise without having to use my rescue inhaler. Little did I know that there was a side effect especially directed to singers. Hoarseness and terrible too. Before my highest note comfortable was G above high C, now I struggle with the high C. sometimes I get horse even if I don’t use the inhaler.
    I have to wait for my appointment to see my specialist, which is in June. I won’t be seen before. I was dropped from singing soprano solo in the Verdi Requiem as my voice is unpredictable. I didn’t think it would happen to me but, I feel so depressed.

  7. I did not realise that singers can encounter so many problems with losing their voice, and effecting their careers. The last comment from ‘A soprano’ must be very unfortunate for her and waiting so long to see her specialist. I do hope that all you artists will find a solution to avoid most mishaps to perform well, after all those many hours of training, sacrifice and dedication.
    In my case, artists in the dancing scene do encounter problems with pulled muscles, overworked joints, which are unavoidable in order to attain perfection in this fine art. Sometimes we drive ourselves beyond what we physical can take…

  8. affan


    Iam a singer but unable to sing from 5 months. Have LPR symptoms..singing is my part of my life which I cant leav without it..please I want to sing again. .Will my voice ever come back???iam very dippres…

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Joseph's Blog

May 16th, 2016

Quo Vadis Eurovision and other stories

Malta did not win the Eurovision but lo and behold the sun still rose and the island (the center of the known universe) still spun…

My two cents is that Ira Losco gave a really good performance and that the whole presentation was excellent. She shouldn’t have performed cause she is pregnant? Come off it – I have performed repeatedly with pregnant opera singers well into their 7th and 8th month of pregnancy and trust me when I say that rehearsing and performing for a full opera production is much more physically demanding than a couple of days at the Eurovision. Of course there are those who know much better than the undersigned and who went on to say that the presentation was a tad “camp”…oh the irony when one considers that the Eurovision is the campest of them all.

Meanwhile, this wouldn’t be Malta and the Eurovision wouldn’t be the Eurovision unless its politicized to the exhaustible hilt. The inevitable “mud slinging competition,” which we will see a lot of in the coming 22 months, ensued and even yours truly (inexplicably) ended up in the midst of the fray, in yet another “supernova” in a tea cup. The Eurovision suddenly became an interchangeable bullet to be used ad nauseam by both sides much like bitter parents who use their innocent children during disputes.  I have always found sycophants interesting, even amusing but they will not be getting the much desired Streisand effect from me, thank you very much. It is part of human nature after all to conjure conspiracies and we are not going to let the simple truth get in the way of some exciting and convenient fiction.

Speaking of “conjuring” is it me or is a company advertising real estate using a chap “connected” with the tragic and unnecessary death of an underage girl? It must be a clone or a”doppleganger”, otherwise this would be the epitome of bad taste and a 100 shades of wrong. Don’t get me wrong I am all for “second chances” and all of that but shouldn’t there be due process first? After all Lisa Marie didn’t get a second chance did she?