Voice Problems Trouble Teachers

By Susan Tan
Susan Tan
Susan Tan
September 2, 2010 Updated: September 2, 2010

[xtypo_dropcap]A[/xtypo_dropcap]s summer comes to an end and school starts, one of the back-to-school stories is that of the teachers who will start a 10-month grind of using their voices to give lectures, the question is, will the teacher be able to adjust his or her voice to the school setting after coming back from summer? Vocal ailments cause real problems in education.

Voice problems concern teachers, singers, broadcast journalists, clergy, and attorneys who use their voices in noisy surroundings as part of their professional responsibilities.

According to the American Academy of Otolaryngology—head and neck surgery (AAO-H NS)—more than 1-in-4 people in the United States reports voice disorders during his or her lifetime and that this is a particular problem among teachers. As many as 47 percent of our nation’s teachers experience some degree of voice abnormality on any given day; 20 percent of teachers report missing work due to voice problems, and 1-in-10 teachers has been forced to leave the profession by voice woes.

In a survey conducted by Daniel E. Phillips, Ashley A. Gillespie, and Jessica D. Thompson in 2001 and 2002 with data collected from 500 teachers in elementary, middle, and secondary schools, more than 47 percent of the teachers surveyed, 230 out of 480, said they currently had a voice problem, or had experienced a voice problem in the past year.

The teachers had trouble with voice quality, durability, loudness, consistency, and pitch.

Causes of voice problems include overuse, upper respiratory infections, vocal nodules, and laryngeal cancer, according to the National Institute on Deafness and other communication Disorders (NIDCD). The cost of vocal problems in education is enormous. A conservative annual budget for therapy, surgery and substitutes to cover for affected teachers is estimated to be $2 billion.

In an interview with Lee M. Akst, M.D. assistant professor, director of Johns Hopkins Voice Center, Akst suggested ways of protecting the voice: Drink plenty of water. Try not to scream or yell at ball games or other events. Don’t overuse one’s voice. Don’t smoke. Use good breath support. Use a microphone when giving a speech or presentation. Most of all, pay attention to how your voice sounds and how your voice feels. If you are getting hoarse or strained, know when to rest your voice so that it can recover.

Susan Tan