The Effects of Weight on the Voice

About Dr. Reena Gupta

Dr. Reena Gupta is the Director of the Division of Voice and Laryngology at OHNI. Dr. Gupta has devoted her practice to the care of patients with voice problems. She is board certified in otolaryngology and laryngology and fellowship trained in laryngology, specializing in the care of the professional voice.

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Do weight loss and weight gain affect the voice?

Question: I recently underwent gastric bypass surgery.  Thanks to this procedure, I’ve lost more than 100 pounds and I’m thrilled with the results.  However, I’ve noticed that my voice has gotten slightly deeper.  Is it normal for men’s voices to get deeper with weight loss? Should I be worried that there is something else going on?

Answer: There are many studies being done to assess the effects of weight loss on the voice.  Preliminary data suggest that at the extremes, weight loss and weight gain affect the voice.  Interestingly, this effect is different in men and women.

Excess weight results in an increased production and storage of female hormones, and, to a lesser extent, male hormones.  In men, there is a relatively higher level of female hormones and they respond to this.  This can result in a slight lightening of the voice.  In women, the slightly higher level of testosterone results in a masculinization of the voice.  Specifically, the pitch gets slightly lower.

More importantly, obese people are often not in good physical condition.  This often results in poor breath control and a more restricted expansion of the chest.  Endurance is required to be able to sing correctly and most obese people do not have that endurance.  The older paradigm of heavy-set opera singers is changing as opera singers are required to do more physical stage work.  It is no longer considered mandatory for a good singer to be heavy, as used to be the case.  Slim performers can develop as good a support as a heavy singer and have greater endurance as well.

Does Weight Affect Voice & Singing?
Georgian mezzo-soprano Anita Rachvelishvili, is a demonstration of how a normal body weight is advantageous for superb vocal quality.

There is a law of diminishing returns; below a certain weight, continued weight loss will have a negative effect on the voice.  A certain body weight is necessary for good health, and this weight varies from person to person.  Underweight singers tend to have a more fragile vocal system that is more prone to injuries, and often a significantly decreased endurance.

Maintaining a healthy weight, not being over or underweight, will set you on the path to vocal health.

 Key Points

  • Significant weight gain will have a negative effect on the voice (pitch and endurance)
  • Maintaining a healthy weight ensures the best likelihood of successful voice use.
  • Being underweight is also risky to the voice.
A normal videostroboscopy examination of the vocal cords

Read patient stories about Dr. Reena Gupta from The Division of Voice at the Osborne Head and Neck Institute.

To learn more about Dr. Reena Gupta, click here.