Teachers use their voices all day every day, but when it comes to voice training, they are often overlooked. Read on to find out why voice care is important and why after 20 years’ experience as a vocal coach, I’m passionate about these professionals being at the forefront of spoken voice training.
Why do teachers need voice training?
Teachers are professional voice users (i.e. their voice is an essential part of their job), which puts them at a higher risk of developing voice disorders. Studies have shown that more than 1 in 3 Australian teachers have taken time off work because of voice related issues (Williams 2003). The economic impact of voice disorders in teachers continues to be an issue. There are also 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 in their cohort (Williams 2003). Some of the most common complaints are a weak voice, fatigue and effortful voicing (aka it being a lot of effort to make a sound) being the most common complaints.
Why do teachers get voice disorders?
Teachers often work long hours and have intense vocal demands – but have minimal training in how to use their voice efficiently. A lack of vocal technique knowledge coupled with other risk factors (keep reading to find out what they are) can often result in using compensatory behaviours for vocal production. This can then lead to common disorders such as nodules, polyps or muscle tension dysphonia (more about those in the next blog!).
There are many risks that can contribute to developing a voice disorder. A systematic review by Byeon (2019) lists the following for teachers:
· teaching more than 20 hours per week
· being female
· alcohol consumption
· caffeine consumption
· lack of sleep
· lack of 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, we recommend a full voice assessment by a speech pathologist and laryngologist .
Check out a list of health professionals here:
Laryngology Society of Australasia: https://www.lsanz.org.au
Speech Pathology Australia: https://www.speechpathologyaustralia.org.au/SPAweb/Resources_for_the_Public/Find_a_Speech_Pathologist/SPAweb/Resources_for_the_Public/Find_a_Speech_Pathologist/All_Searches.aspx?hkey=0b04c883-80b2-43e7-9298-7e5db5c75197
How can I improve my voice in 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.
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 (aka talk less) when sick.
· Maintain a good exercise and sleep routine.
Would you like to know more about voice training for teachers?
Get in touch! There are many professions that require voice training and care to do their job successfully, and I have worked with many professional voice users over the years. It’s not just singers who can benefit from using their voices in safe and healthy way
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).