As a vocal coach of 20 years’ experience, I have worked with many professional voice users over the years. Whilst most of my clientele are predominantly singers, there are many other professions that require voice training and care for employees to do their job successfully. These professions are often overlooked in the voice training space, with teachers and educators being a population that should be at the forefront of spoken voice training.
Why do teachers need voice training?
Teachers are professional voice users and are therefore at a higher risk of developing voice disorders. Studies have shown that more than 1/3 of Australian teachers have taken time off work because of voice related issues (Williams 2003). The economic impact on voice disorders in teachers continues to be an issue alongside the social and emotional effects of living with a voice disorder when teaching. Physical education and early learning teachers are at the highest risk of voice disorder among this occupation (Williams 2003), with vocal weakness, fatigue and effortful voicing being the most common complaints.
Why do teachers get voice disorders?
Teachers often work long hours and have intense vocal demands alongside minimal training in how to use their voice efficiently. A lack of vocal technique knowledge coupled with other risk factors can often result in compensatory behaviours of vocal production, resulting in common disorders such as nodules, polyps or muscle tension dysphonia (more about those in the next blog!). There are many risk factors associated with developing a voice disorder.
A systematic review by Byeon (2019) lists the following common risk factors for teachers:
· Teaching more than 20 hours per week
· Being female
· Alcohol consumption
· Caffeine consumption
· Lack of sleep and exercise
· Anxiety and depression
· Upper respiratory tract infections
· Acid reflux
As a teacher, how do I know if I have a voice disorder?
The most common vocal symptoms reported by teachers with voice disorders include:
· Vocal fatigue
· A weak voice
· Voice failure
· Pain or discomfort when speaking
· Persistent coughing or throat clearing
· Difficulty in projecting the voice
(Barbsoa et al. 2021)
What do I do if I suspect I have a voice disorder?
If you are experiences any of the above symptoms for more than 2-3 weeks, a full voice assessment by a speech pathologist and laryngologist is recommended.
How can improve my voice for the classroom?
Research shows that a combination of voice training and vocal hygiene implementations work best in the treatment, management, and prevention of voice disorders. To learn how to use your voice more efficiently, it is imperative to work with a qualified and experienced vocal coach or speech pathologist to retrain your habitual vocal patterns so you can get the most out of your voice in the classroom. Voice training will help you develop better vocal routines such as warming up your voice before teaching, as well as healthy speaking habits.
Some basic vocal hygiene to help improve your voice can also been implemented. Some of these include:
· Staying hydrated. The vocal folds need to be hydrated to work efficiently. Drink water throughout your teaching day.
· Avoid habitual coughing and throat clearing. These fatigue the voice and can create tension and swelling of the vocal folds.
· Limit alcohol and caffeine intake
· Manage reflux symptoms
· Use amplification, especially in outdoor settings
· Limit voice use when sick
· Maintain a good exercise and sleeping routine
Would you like to know more about voice training for teachers?
Get in touch!
Almedia, L., N., Almeida, A.A., Behkua, M., Barbosa, K., Fariass, H., Lima-Silva, M. F. (2021), Voice symptoms, perceived voice control, and common mental disorders in elementary school teachers, Journal of Voice , 16 (19).
Byeon, H. (2019), The Risk Factors Related to Voice Disorder in Teachers: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis, International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.
Williams. (2003). Occupational groups at risk of voice disorders: a review of the literature, Occupational Medicine, 53 (7).