A teacher’s voice is her most valuable asset. Teachers place huge stress on their voices, often talking for many hours in a day inside rooms with poor acoustics and a lot of background noise. Early in the fall term it’s very common for teachers’ voices to become hoarse or even “disappear.”

Along with air traffic controllers, telephone customer service reps, and emergency dispatchers, teachers are occupational voice users, meaning talking is an integral part of their jobs. As occupational voice users, teachers are much more likely to have voice-related injuries.

Vocal cords are thin elastic bands inside the throat that vibrate to create sound. Stressing the vocal cords can cause swelling of the vocal fold, muscle strain, and vocal fold nodules. These issues contribute to poor vocal quality and stamina and if left untreated can lead to permanent damage.

There are steps teachers and other occupational voice users can take to mitigate the symptoms.

Stop smoking. Smoking causes throat inflammation, not to mention increases the risk for polyps and laryngeal cancer.

Drink up. Hydrating throughout the day will help to keep vocal cords moisturized. Sip water throughout the day and limit dehydrating beverages such as coffee and soda.

Rest when possible. Try and rest your vocal cords in 10-15 minute increments throughout the day. Think of small group discussions and individual exercises for students as a way to rest your voice.

Consider amplification. If you work in a larger classroom and a microphone is available, use it. Amplifying your voice will save you from having to shout to reach the back row.

Try not to clear your throat. Frequently clearing your throat causes irritation, which perpetuates the cycle and feeling of needing to clear your throat. Sipping water throughout the day will help to clear away mucus. If you still feel the need to clear your throat, try doing it gently only after you’ve had some water to drink.

See an Orlando ENT specialist. An ear, nose, and throat specialist can help to establish your vocal baseline, identify potential issues, and help you to develop a strategy for vocal health.

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