Could a teacher's voice problem affect student achievement?
The purpose of this blog post is two fold: 1) to advocate for teachers 2) to provide some suggestions to ease their vocal problem. Keep in mind that any vocal problem that lasts more than a week should be evaluated by a medical professional. Voice therapy might provide some help in maintaining a healthy voice and these suggestions in no way are meant to be a substitute for a thorough evaluation by a voice team.
It is not an uncommon occurrence for me to be contacted by teachers. Often this happens after October, or just before spring break. Some of their complaints include the following:
By 9:30 am, I feel like I have so much tension in my neck/throat. I have to work so hard.
By the end of the day, I can’t talk without a lot of effort.
By the end of the day, I’m hoarse!
By lunch time, I’m hoarse and then it gets better during lunch.
By the end of the week, I’m sounding so much deeper.
I can’t sing anymore!
These problems often stem from having to project a voice in a room with less than advantageous acoustics. Eventually a toll is exacted on a teacher in the form of vocal problems which can range from changes in the voice to increased effort when using the voice and even laryngitis. Voice problems are a health hazard that teachers, all across America must deal with every day. Why? In many schools, classrooms are not designed with teacher-student communication in mind. It is a distraction at the least when a teacher cannot speak, has problems speaking, or speaks and cannot be heard. At times, if necessary the teacher might need to stay out of the classroom placing the charge of teaching into the hands of a substitute, who may or may not be a specialist in teaching youngsters. This wastes precious time and money resources in the educational system. Behavioral and Brain Sciences(Vol. 1). (n.d.). doi:10.1177/2372732214548677
Here in Hawaii the problem can be aggravated by schools that are designed to have the windows open. This causes the ambient noise level to rise with the sounds of traffic, students out at recess, lawn mowers, and yes, the ever present feral chickens. When room-cooling systems are available, they are usually fans or window air conditioning units which are selected for economic reasons, and with no consideration of competitive sound levels.
The problem is wide spread, and is being researched by the vocology community around the world. A 2015 article published in The Journal of Voice found that 33% of teachers in New Zealand reported voice problems. What is most interesting in this study is that the authors included the data from studies from as far back as 1993, collected from geographic locations including, North America, South America, Europe, and Australia. Most of the data were gathered by self administered questionnaire, and 4 out of 11 had very similar definitions of vocal problems. All but one had a definition of “voice problem.” Out of these 11 studies the average of reported vocal problems, through out a teacher’s career, ranged from 31 to 63 percent of subjects Journal of Voice (Vol. 29). (Issue 5, pp645,e1-645.e13).
While this information may be overwhelming there are some proactive techniques teachers, or any other speaker, can do to maintain vocal quality. Here are five methods to improve your ability to sustain a healthy voice throughout the day.
The vocal system can be looked at in three parts: respiration, phonation, and resonation. When we place a high demand in on the vocal system it becomes imperative that all three subsystems are used efficiently for peak performance.
What's in a name? Shakesphere once asked. Well today a name of a business not only needs to reflect what that business does and what makes it special; it also needs to be easy to find in social media! with that in mind we are announcing a name streamline. While we will always be the place in Hawaii to find comprehensive language, speech, and voice services, you can now find us on Twitter, Instagram, and soon Facebook as hispeechstudio.
Our list of services still include:
Transgender voice services
Trissa DiBenedetto WAlter
Is a singer, voice teacher, speech language pathologist, and certified vocologist