Teachers face voice problems. From U.S. Census Bureau.
If you stop to think about it, it kind of makes sense that teachers would wear out their voices. After all, talking is a major part of their job. Talking is probably being kind–anyone who’s ever had to communicate with a room full of children knows that talking is not an adequate description. Now there is hard data to back up that idea.
According to Eric J. Hunter, deputy executive director of the National Center for Voice and Speech, teachers are more than twice as likely as others to have voice problems and about three times as likely to see a doctor about it.
“It’s in the first three weeks of school,” said Hunter, “What’s hard with teachers is that as their voice starts to go, the primary tool of their trade isn’t effective.”
For female teachers, the strain is even greater. Hunter found that female teachers use their voices about 10 percent more than males when teaching, and about 7 percent more when not teaching. Women also have smaller larynxes (voice boxes) and their vocal cords vibrate more quickly.
Dr. Joseph Spiegel, co-director of the Voice and Swallowing Center at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia stressed that demand is also a factor, especially for teachers of younger kids. He said, “The younger the children, the more they’re having to use their voices for crowd control.” Spiegel also said teachers make up about 20 percent of his fall clients.
For many teachers, the solution they turn to is surgery, performed by Spiegel or someone like him, to remove nodules and polyps they’d developed on their vocal cords. Teachers also need to learn to protect their voices, warming up their voices before class or perhaps using a portable microphone.
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