Dear Dr. Jahn,
What is the verdict on caffeine and the voice? I have heard that it doesn’t actually dry out the voice that much. Can I start enjoying the odd cup of coffee without hurting my voice?
You’re right, and as a fellow coffee drinker, I’m pleased to debunk that theory. Drinking coffee (or other caffeinated drinks) does increase the urge to urinate. This is misconstrued by many as evidence that caffeine is a diuretic, therefore drying. I have been told by urologist colleagues that this is not the case.
Rather, coffee makes muscles more contractile. The bladder muscle will signal you to “go” more readily, with smaller degrees of distention. So you may pee twice as frequently, but your urine output is the same.
Now, excessive amounts of caffeine may be a problem – not from dehydration, but because you may lose some neuromuscular control over your voice. This would manifest in singing softly as a tremor. All said and done, coffee has been shown to have other health benefits, and a daily cup of joe will definitely not hurt your singing.
-Anthony F. Jahn, MD, FACS, FRCS(C)
This discussion is for general information and not to be construed as specific medical advice that you should obtain from your own physician.
Dr. Jahn is an internationally renowned otolaryngologist based in Manhattan with a sub-specialty interest in the professional voice. His practice includes classical and popular singers. He holds academic appointments at Mount Sinai School of Medicine and Westminster Choir College in Princeton. He is Medical Director at Jazz at Lincoln Center, and former Director of Medical Services at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. Dr. Jahn has published several books for vocalists, including “Vocal Heath for Singers” (Singdaptive) and “The Singer’s Guide to Complete Health” (Oxford University Press).