It can be unexpected to notice a change in octave or pitch after weight loss and cause you to ask: does your voice change when you lose weight?
We will cover the interesting relationship of weight loss and voice change, share a few firsthand stories of people who have lost weight and noticed vocal changes, and then share what Dr. Reena Gupta–a laryngologist (voice doctor)–has to say about this effect and its causes.
Why Does Your Voice Change When You Lose Weight?
Some people notice that their voice gets higher or lower after following slimming down while others notice a difference in sound but not necessarily pitch, and still others don’t notice their voice changing throughout weight loss whatsoever–even after losing a considerable amount.
So why does your voice change when you lose weight and why do some people experience while others don’t?
The relationship of weight loss and vocal function has been researched and findings indicate that obesity may affect vocal function because added fat tissue around the neck, chest, and laryngeal airway may constrict the normal function and sound of one’s voice in contrast to their previous weight and intonation.1
On the flip side, the effect of weight loss on voice after bariatric surgery was insignificant in another study when measured acoustically–despite a third of participants self-reporting that they had noticed a variance before and after weight loss.2 This could be a placebo effect, but another study found that there may be voice change after bariatric surgery as obesity can decrease the size of the pharyngeal tracheal lumen (PLT)–or airway–in certain areas or levels.3
Since there were no certain or conclusive results, more research should be done on the influence of bariatric surgery on voice before concrete answers or advice can be given in regards to what the relationship between the two is.
The Relationship of Weight Loss and Voice Change
While we’ve established that the relationship between bariatric surgery and vocal change is still inconclusive, there have been interesting findings on natural weight loss and its impact on the voice.
Dr. Reena Gupta is the Director of the Division of Voice and Laryngology at the Osborne Head & Neck Institute; she specializes in voice care, and combines her love of singing with her career as a physician by treating professional artists’ vocal issues and caring for their vocal health. Along with her expertise and out research abilities, here are the primary factors that can influence the relationship between weight and voice changes.
Hormones: Dr. Gupta explains that at any weight extreme–whether losing a lot of weight or gaining a lot–can impact the voice for both men and women.
Excessive weight leads to increased hormone production and men may experience a disproportionate level of female hormones such as estrogen while women might produce more testosterone as their weight increases.
Ironically, this can lead overweight or obese men to have higher voices while heavier women may experience a deeper voice as their pitch gets lower–and on the other hand, losing weight can lower men’s voices and heighten women’s.
Body Weight: According to the doctor, healthy body weight is the best bet for vocal quality, strength, and clarity. Being vastly under or overweight can lead to not only poor health and weakness, but may even contribute to other health conditions that could cause voice instability, lack of endurance, or vocal fragility.
Focusing on maintaining a healthy weight can be advantageous to the whole body–including one’s vocal system and voice quality.
Vocal System: The vocal system includes everything from the lungs, airway, vocal folds (cords), vocal tract, larynx, throat, nasal passage, sinuses, and mouth–this system is partially responsible for air flow from the lungs to aid in breathing, any and all vocalizations, clearing the throat, coughing, and playing an instrument. Its main purpose is to produce sound and speech.
The vocal tract portion of the vocal system spans from the nasal cavity deep into the throat where the vocal cords are and includes the lips, tongue, nose, and throat, helping one speak, enunciate, and aid in vocal clarity.
The supralaryngeal vocal tract aids in producing certain vowel sounds. “Supra” means above, so the term supralaryngeal means “above the larynx.”
Since supralaryngeal vocal tract size can change somewhat during immense weight change, this could contribute to variation in voice sound at different weights.
Physical Condition: Dr. Gupta also noted that those who are obese often have poor overall health or other conditions, which could very well cause poor vocal health as well–this can include poor voice and breath control, fatty tissue compressing certain parts of the vocal system, restricted airways, and lowered lung capacity or chest expansion. Breathlessness is also more common in the overweight and obese population, which greatly impacts both speech and singing vocalizations.
Vocal Endurance: Vocal endurance is essentially the perseverance of one’s voice and ability to remain clear and high quality for longer and is especially noticeable in singers; interestingly, opera singers are often portrayed as being heavy-set, but singers at a healthy weight are more likely to have the best vocal endurance.
Firsthand Experiences of Weight Loss and Voice Change
We’ve found firsthand accounts from three people who had significant weight loss journeys; let’s see what each one had to say about losing weight and what impact it had on their voice, if any.
First, we have a 73-year-old male who previously weighed 250 pounds but dropped to under 150. He is a semi-professional singer and noted that after his weight loss neither his normal talking voice nor his singing voice changed in pitch or octave; however, the volume or decibel level of his singing voice was reduced to only about half of what it had been at his heaviest.4
Next, we heard from a man who had not experienced immense weight loss himself but noted that both his wife and a friend of his had. His wife had lost 30 pounds but no vocal difference was detected, while his friend who had weight loss surgery and went from 400 pounds to just 150 pounds had a noticeable voice change.
He mentioned that while his friend’s voice sounded “congested and mushy” at her heaviest, it was now “more normal sounding” after losing hundreds of pounds in excess weight.5
Lastly, Ri is another singer we found who is 28 years old and lost a massive amount of weight–105 pounds to be exact. She stated that her singing voice change before and after weight loss was undeniable.
She explained that at her heaviest, her voice sounded strained and almost restricted, her breathing weak and labored, and her singing negatively influenced.
After losing over 100 pounds, Ri heard how crisp her voice sounded in comparison and realized that she could hold her breath longer and hold sustained notes while singing. Though she said she did not recognize any change in pitch, her voice was more powerful and both felt and sounded less constrained, boosting her confidence in her singing career.6
Do Both Men & Women Experience Voice Changing Throughout Weight Loss?
For those questioning, does your voice change when you lose weight whether you’re a man or woman, interestingly both male and females can experience this phenomenon but it’s unclear why only some people notice this difference.
It seems like the more weight gained or lost, the more drastic the vocal change would be; however, some people may lose 200 pounds and notice no voice variation while someone else may lose 30 pounds and notice a change in vocal pitch or power. This could be due to varying factors listed above that we outlined from Dr. Gupta, but all in all it seems that losing weight may deepen voice in men and restore a higher pitch in women.
Does Weight Loss Fluctuation Influence Singing or Just Talking?
Anyone who loves to sing is likely curious does your voice change when you lose weight in regards to singing or just in terms of one’s speaking voice; it seems weight fluctuation can change the acoustic quality of both, but this doesn’t happen for everyone.
Those who’ve lost an immense amount of weight may have noticed breathlessness, decreased lung capacity, and vocal weakness or shakiness when they were at their largest size. Thankfully with weight loss often comes better lung capacity and vocal system function, so after losing some excess pounds you may notice more clarity, strength, or smoothness while singing especially.
How To Maintain Healthy Vocal Cords and Voice Health When Losing Weight
If you’ve adhered to these weight loss rules and followed the 3 steps to lose weight by integrating proper eating, regular exercise, and healthy lifestyle changes into your daily routine but still have not attained the vocal tone or power you’d been hoping for, integrating regular voice care could help.
This includes staying well-hydrated, refraining from clearing your throat too often to avoid aggravation or abrasion, speaking at low volumes, avoiding yelling, and preventing or managing mucus. Any type of acid reflux such as GERD can also be very damaging to the vocal cords, so taking medication or altering one’s eating habits to avoid this is highly recommended.7
To maintain healthy vocal cords and overall voice health is vital for day to day communication whether you are a singer or not, and staying at a healthy weight is beneficial to the total body and well being.
In regards to physical exercise, finding what cardio machines burn the most calories or looking at elliptical before and after photos for inspiration and motivation can be just the push you need to stay on track.
Another motivator may be learning that the vocal characteristics of obese patients tend to be quite shocking; not only can the vocal cords of overweight and obese people become damaged or constrained by the fatty tissue pushing in on them, but other complications may include permanent damage to the vocal folds.8
Issues that can potentially arise from obesity might include acid laryngitis or gastroesophageal reflux that could cause immense buildup of mucus or posterior pachydermia which translates to “elephant skin” because the mucus becomes so thick and rough.
As this condition can be caused by–or lead to–heartburn, further reflux, coughing, chest pain, and a hoarse voice, be very mindful and cautious to take good care of both your vocal and physical health along your weight loss journey, including paying attention to your nutrition and being sure to move your body and stay active.
Though it might be embarrassing for some to notice voice changes as they gain or lose weight, be patient and kind with yourself and put in the effort to stay at a healthy weight because not only does your voice change when you lose weight, but it can be altered when you gain weight as well.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does Everyone’s Voice Change When They Lose Weight?
Not everyone’s voice changes as their weight fluctuates, but some research suggests that active efforts to lose weight such as adjusting diet and exercise can have a greater impact on vocal difference than passive weight loss strategies such as a gastric sleeve or other surgeries.
Does Your Voice Change When You Lose Weight Immediately or Gradually?
Weight loss fluctuation doesn’t always lead to noticeable voice, tone, or pitch changes, but those who do recognize a difference tend to do so over time rather than suddenly.
Can Gaining Weight Change Your Voice Too?
Gaining weight can have just as much impact on the voice as weight loss can, as the differences in vocal traits are likely simply reversed when losing or gaining.
What Other Factors Influence Vocal Pitch?
Aside from weight loss, factors that influence vocal pitch can include larynx or vocal cord health, elasticity, muscle health, illness, age, dehydration, smoking, yelling, nodes, polyps, and acid reflux.
1Solomon, N., Helou, L., & Dietrich-Burns, K. (2011, February). Do obesity and weight loss affect vocal function? Seminars in Speech and Language, 32(11), 31-42. <https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21491357/>
2Hamdan, A.-L., Safadi, B., Chamseddine, G., Kasty, M., Turfe, Z., & Ziade, G. (2014, June 18). Effect of weight loss on voice after bariatric surgery. The Journal of Voice, 28(5), 613. <https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24954040/>
3Eravci, F., Yildiz, B., Ozcan, K., Moran, M., Colak, M., Karakurt, S., Karakus, M., & Ikineiogullari, A. (2022, December). Acoustic parameter changes after bariatric surgery. Logopedics Phoniatrics Vocology, 47(4), 256-261. <https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34213387/>
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6Frend Ri. (2020, August 11). Can Weight Loss Change Your Voice? [The Science of ‘Sounding Fat’ | -100lbs] [Video]. YouTube. Retrieved March 3, 2023, from <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QimSh2hOBfg>
7University of Texas Health: San Antonio. (2022). Voice Care. UT Health San Antonio. Retrieved March 1, 2023, from <https://lsom.uthscsa.edu/otolaryngology/centers/ut-voice-center/voice-care/>
8Bosso, J., Martins, R., Pessin, A., Tavares, E., Leite, C., & Naresse, L. (2019, October 21). Vocal Characteristics of Patients With Morbid Obesity. Journal of Voice, 35(2), 329. <https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31648859/>
9Luiz Rogério Nunes. “topless woman with left hand on her chin photo – Free Feira de santana – ba Image on Unsplash.” Unsplash, 21 July 2021, Accessed 5 April 2023. <https://unsplash.com/photos/XEQAQwaAAC0>
10Luiz Rogério Nunes. “woman in black tank top singing photo – Free Grey Image on Unsplash.” Unsplash, 2 December 2020, Accessed 5 April 2023. <https://unsplash.com/photos/yCwtZhYcQxs>