Unexplained chronic persistent cough has been shown to be associated with increased episodes of otherwise asymptomatic gastroesophageal reflux; however, normal subjects without cough also exhibit some reflux. We postulate that the prompt clearance of refluxed acid from the esophagus may play an important role in the prevention of cough, and we sought to determine if patients with chronic cough have impaired clearance. Thirty patients with unexplained chronic cough underwent 24-h ambulatory esophageal pH monitoring. Compared to 12 matched control subjects, patients experienced significantly more episodes (all values expressed as median [range]) of reflux per 24 h (88.3 [5.0 to 338.0] vs 5.7 [0 to 13.0]; p < 0.0001) and had impaired clearance of esophageal acid as measured by the duration of individual reflux episodes (3.0 [0.1 to 20.5] min per reflux vs 0.7 [0 to 2.5] min per reflux; p < 0.01). We conclude that patients with chronic persistent cough have impaired clearance of esophageal acid.