Eleven patients presenting to an ear, nose, and throat specialist were diagnosed as having idiopathic hoarseness and prospectively evaluated for evidence of gastroesophageal reflux (GER) to determine if an association existed. Testing for GER included voice analysis, EGD, esophageal manometry, Bernstein test, and ambulatory 24-hr pH monitoring. Six of the 11 (55%) hoarse patients studied had GER by pH monitoring (mean score 105 +/- 23), and most reflux episodes were supine and prolonged (20.9 +/- 8.2% supine pH less than 4.0, longest 129 min). All patients with abnormal pH monitoring had endoscopic esophagitis (Barrett's esophagus in two, peptic stricture in one, and erosive esophagitis in three), while none of the patients with normal scores had esophagitis. Symptoms of throat pain or nocturnal heartburn were more common in the GER-positive patients (6 of 6 vs 1 of 5), and clinically helpful in discriminating which hoarse patients had pathologic GER. Treatment with ranitidine 150 mg per os twice a day for 12 weeks improved esophagitis in all patients, but the voice improved in only one of the two patients with completely healed esophagitis. This study suggests that (1) GER is frequently seen in patients with idiopathic hoarseness (55%), (2) hoarse patients with throat pain or nocturnal heartburn are likely to have severe esophagitis and should be evaluated by EGD, and (3) additional antireflux and voice therapy may be necessary to heal esophagitis and improve the voice.