7 Ways You (Especially Teachers) Can Prevent Vocal Injuries
By Dan Houtz, SLP
Dec 1, 2017
Updated Nov 17, 2023
5 min read
About 10 percent of the workers in the United States are heavy occupational voice users, which means they use their voices so much during the workday that they face higher risks of voice disorders.
This group includes members of the clergy, counselors, telemarketers, singers, lawyers, tour guides, stage actors, and more, plus three million elementary and secondary school teachers who represent the largest group of professionals who use their voices as a primary tool of trade. Voice disorders can be a frequent occupational hazard of teaching.
A voice disorder is any problem that impairs the voice from functioning adequately to meet the demands set by the speaker. Common symptoms include hoarseness, effortful/strained speaking, vocal fatigue, shortness of breath with speech and throat tightness, or pain with voice use.
While it’s common to experience hoarseness from colds or upper respiratory infections, a voice disorder extends beyond cold symptoms and lasts for several weeks or longer.
Teachers of music, drama, and performing arts are significantly more at risk than other teachers — even more than physical education teachers and coaches.
The biggest risk factor for developing a risk factor is occupation — anyone who relies heavily on their voice to do their job is at greater risk. A lesser known risk factor is gender. Women are much more at risk for voice problems, in part because when they speak, their vocal chords vibrate at roughly twice the speed of men’s, which puts twice the load on their voices.
If hoarseness and other symptoms last three weeks or longer outside of other illness symptoms, see an ear, nose, and throat physician or a speech pathologist who has expertise in evaluating and treating voice disorders Treatments may include voice therapy, medications, or possibly surgery.