Vocal Health for Teachers
The school year is off to a flying start and it’s time to consider vocal health for teachers! As the year flies by, let’s have a moment to reflect on one of the essential, if not most important, tools in your teaching toolbox. Your Voice!
What are you doing for your voice in 2020?
Perhaps you set yourself the goal to drink 2.5 litres of water per day.
Or maybe, you’re aiming to reduce the amount of background noise in your work environment.
Open-plan classrooms, we are looking at you!
Or maybe you don’t even know where to start and want some guidance to improve your teaching voice.
No matter how big or small, Voice Science™ is here to help you with your voice goals and advocate for vocal health for teachers.
Vocal Health for Teachers is a Big Issue
Teachers are at increased risk of a voice problem compared to many other professions.
As a teacher, your voice is an incredibly crucial occupational tool. Over the day, you use your voice to instruct classes, communicate with colleagues and parents, or have a chat during your well-deserved lunch breaks.
Through your voice, you not only impart knowledge to the future leaders of our country, but you also teach students about vocal tone and how to convey meaning through voice. As the school term progresses, you count on your voice to maintain motivation and order in your classroom.
But did you know that a wide variety of research concludes that teachers have a higher risk of developing voice problems when compared to other occupations, leading to increased absenteeism in the workplace and reduced quality of life?
[Tweet “Some studies identify that ⅓ of teachers have missed work due to voice problems” (de Medeiros, Assunção & Barreto, 2012)]
Scarily, these voice problems can even develop while you undertake your studies (Ohlsson, Demitz-Helin, Furu, Hällgren & Karjalainen, 2019).
How Teaching Without Strategies can Destroy Your Voice
Firstly, what constitutes a voice problem? Optimal voice use sees coordination between breath, phonation and resonance. When one of these subsystems is singing its own tune, it can throw out your voice and leave you with a vocal quality or behaviours that will not assist you in the classroom. Prolonged speaking, loud volume, dehydration, reduced body posture and any form of muscular tension may put you at risk.
You have started your morning with a nice hot cup of coffee and glass of water, and you are ready to rock the day (well done on starting your day hydrated!). By recess, you notice that your voice is feeling a little dry, so you keep clearing your throat because this provides you with a moment of relief. After lunch, you have started to feel vocally fatigued, so you squeeze your throat to help your voice carry to the back of the classroom. Towards the end of the day, you can feel your stress increasing because you know that you have a particularly important parent-teacher meeting after school. You notice that your shoulders have risen and you are clenching your jaw…
Does this sound like you? Many of these behaviours above may be impacting on your voice. But it is important to remember that you are not alone.
Thus, emphasising the importance of your vocal IQ to ensure that you develop healthy and safe vocal techniques. Protecting vocal health for teachers is essential according to the research.
Still not convinced you need some voice strategies for the classroom?
Let’s have a look at the impact a voice disorder can have on the teaching population.
- 17% of Swedish student teachers developed a voice problem by the end of their studies. (Ohlsson et al., 2019).
- Female teachers are more likely to develop a voice problem compared to male teachers (Assunção, Bassi, de Medeiros, de Souza Rodrigues & Gama, 2012; Ohlsson et al., 2019).
- 32% of teachers received a physician diagnosis of dysphonia (Assunçãoet al., 2012)
- Absenteeism saw that 18.3% of teachers had missed one day of work during the past year due to voice problems, compared to 7.2% of the general population. Notably, 3% of teachers had missed more than five days of work compared to 1.3% of the population (Roy, Merrill, Thibeault, Gray, & Smith, 2004).
- 22.2% of teachers suffered declines in working capabilities due to voice problems or damage (Rinsky-Halivni, Klebanov, Lerman & Paltiel, 2017).
- Voice problems led to changes in work satisfaction and a reduction in teachers’ ability to communicate as effectively (Rinsky-Halivni et al., 2017).
- Physical Education and Primary School teachers may be at a higher risk compared to other teachers for developing voice problems. (Ryan, Rotunda, Song & Maina, 2012).
- Most common reports for voice problems included throat clearing, hoarseness, vocal fatigue, weakened voice, parched throat and singing difficulties (Martins, Pereira, Hidalgo & Tavares, 2014; Pizolato et al., 2013).
Do Voice Problems in Teachers Also Cause Wellbeing Impacts?
Interestingly, there are mixed opinions throughout the research around whether or not voice problems in teachers led to increased levels of anxiety, decreased quality of life and/or reduced motivation. Shoeib, Nassar & Ghandour (2012) found that voice problems increased anxiety regarding employment opportunities, increased teacher frustration and contributed to social withdrawal. However, Pizolato et al., (2013) highlighted voice problems did not impact on the quality of life. So what can you take away when there are conflicting findings in research? Don’t discount any feelings that you may have. If you have a diagnosed voice problem and you have noticed that it is impacting your mental health, talk to your GP to find out what options are available for you.
Epic math: What is the financial impact of voice problems in teachers?
We know the personal impact that a voice problem may have on a teacher, but what about the impact on the Australian economy? Let’s do some EPIC math based on the findings from Roy et al., (2004) (Pemberton, n.d.). This will make you sit up straight and realise that Vocal Health For Teachers is a real concern.
- 18.3% of teachers missed one day of work due to voice problems in American schools
- In 2018 there were 288,583 full-time equivalent (FTE) teaching staff in Australian schools (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2018).
- The maximum daily rate for a Casual Relief Teacher (CRT) is $370.98 (Department of Education and Training, 2017)
- 288,583 teachers/100 x 18.3 = 52,810 teachers Australia wide who missed one day of work for voice problems.
52,810 x $370.98 = $19,591,453.8
Improve Vocal Health for Teachers & We Save Millions of $
Given that vocal technique, vocal hygiene, and environmental modification can assist with healthy voice production, we must strive to protect our teachers’ voices. The longevity of a teacher’s voice is a national concern, and as speech pathologists, we have the tools to assist.
Voice Training Will Build Your Vocal IQ
Nusseck, Immerz, Spahn, Echternach & Richter (2019) found that voice training assists in reducing the risk of developing voice problems two years after completing the training. Almost half of the teachers found they could include elements of voice training into their day.
At Voice Science™ we pride ourselves on being transparent, so we must let you know that this study highlighted that time constraints are a significant barrier, with 50% of teachers reporting they did not have time or were too stressed to implement voice exercises.
Of note, stress can be a risk factor for developing a voice disorder, so while voice exercises may seem overwhelming or impractical, they are imperative to ensure the longevity of your voice. We will work with you to provide a practice regime and exercises that are functional for your daily life.
The Cold Truth: Your Voice is a Money Maker
Which is why we have prepared for you our Freebie Cheatsheet: Increase your Vocal IQ.
Make sure you download it!
Get Your Vocal IQ for Teachers WorkbookDownload this practical Vocal Health For Teachers Resource now!
No hard feelings, no judgement...
There is no shame in needing help or finding answers for what is going on with your voice. Da Costa, Prada, Roberts & Cohen (2012) found that only 1/3 of teachers who had experienced a voice-related concern sought professional help. These teachers reported that barriers to accessing support included a lack of awareness of voice therapy and a belief that vocal hoarseness was a “normal” aspect of teaching. We are here to tell you that any change to your voice for longer than two weeks is worth exploring.
So what do we know thus far… As a teacher, your voice is your primary tool for completing your job. Teachers have a higher risk of developing vocal issues than other professionals, and this can impact their personal and professional life. Voice disorders among the teaching population also cause a significant financial burden on society.
A preventative approach, including voice training, is needed to ensure that voice disorders in teachers do not arise. Making an investment in your voice and vocal IQ is a long term investment in your professional and personal life. Let’s rally together to reduce vocal risk and prevent our teachers from developing voice disorders. Let’s use 2020 to up your vocal IQ.
If you’d like more information or if you are concerned about your voice, book an assessment session or keep an eye out for our teacher workshops. Otherwise, look out for our Vocal Hygiene handout for helpful tips to increase your vocal hygiene habits.
WATCH THE TUTORIAL FOR THIS BLOG NOW. Voice Science TV.Put a Face to Voice Science
Our mini video tutorials are designed to give you actionable strategies to improve your: Voice Tone, Pronunciation, Accent, Fluency, Social Communication, Language for Leadership & Workplace Communication.
Voice Workshops for Teachers
Ready to use your voice to your advantage in the classroom?
Our Voice Workshops for Teachers will provide you with hands on information and exercises that you can add to your daily working life to optimise your vocal health.
All I want for Christmas is a... healthy Singing Voice
Case Study: Voice Therapy for a Teacher with Nodules
The following case study outlines how Voice Science™ achieved leading care and service in providing voice therapy for a teacher with early stage bilateral vocal nodules.
Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2018). 4221.0 – Schools, Australia, 2018 Quality Declaration. Retrieved from https://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Latestproducts/4221.0Main%20Features202018?opendocument&tabname=Summary&prodno=4221.0&issue=2018&num=&view=
Da Costa, V., Prada, E., Roberts, A., & Cohen, S. (2012). Voice disorders in primary school teachers and barriers to care. Journal of voice, 26(1), 69-76.
de Medeiros, A. M., Assunção, A. Á., & Barreto, S. M. (2012). Absenteeism due to voice disorders in female teachers: a public health problem. International archives of occupational and environmental health, 85(8), 853-864.
Department of Education and Training (2017). Casual Rates of Pay in Victorian Government Schools. Retrieved from https://www.education.vic.gov.au/hrweb/Documents/Salary-CasualRatesOfPay.pdf
Martins, R. H. G., Pereira, E. R. B. N., Hidalgo, C. B., & Tavares, E. L. M. (2014). Voice disorders in teachers. A review. Journal of Voice, 28(6), 716-724.
Nusseck, M., Immerz, A., Spahn, C., Echternach, M., & Richter, B. (2019). Long-Term Effects of a Voice Training Program for Teachers on Vocal and Mental Health. Journal of Voice.
Ohlsson, A. C., Demitz-Helin, G., Furu, A. C., Hällgren, I., & Karjalainen, S. (2019). Potential Risk Factors and Prevalence of Voice Symptoms in Students Starting Their Teacher Education. Journal of Voice.
Pemberton, C. (n.d.). Voice Injury in Teachers: Voice Care Prevention Programmes To Minimise Occupational Risk. Retrieved from http://www.voicecareaustralia.com.au/Voice%20Injury%20in%20Teachers.pdf
Pizolato, R. A., Rehder, M. I. B. C., de Castro Meneghim, M., Ambrosano, G. M. B., Mialhe, F. L., & Pereira, A. C. (2013). Impact on quality of life in teachers after educational actions for prevention of voice disorders: a longitudinal study. Health and quality of life outcomes, 11(1), 28.
Rinsky-Halivni, L., Klebanov, M., Lerman, Y., & Paltiel, O. (2017). Adherence to voice therapy recommendations is associated with preserved employment fitness among teachers with work-related dysphonia. Journal of Voice, 31(3), 386-e19.
Roy, N., Merrill, R. M., Thibeault, S., Gray, S. D., & Smith, E. M. (2004). Voice disorders in teachers and the general population. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research.
Ryan, S., Rotunda, R., Song, C., & Maina, M. (2012). The prevalence and impact of voice problems among physical education teachers. Physical Educator, 69(3), 308.
Shoeib, R. M., Nassar, J. F., & Ghandour, H. H. (2012). Anxiety in female teachers with dysphonia (correlation between the voice handicap index and anxiety state). The Egyptian Journal of Otolaryngology, 28(2), 142.