Teachers and professors returning to the classroom this fall may be struggling with voice issues now, but a Purdue University speech expert says these instructors should have a plan for preserving their voice year-round.
"Teachers are at higher risk for occupation-related voice disorders than the general population, and this could affect their job performance or attendance," says Barbara Solomon, a clinical professor of speech, language and hearing sciences. "Plus, when teachers use their voice well, students are more likely to hear them and succeed at learning."
Problems can include the voice feeling hoarse, raspy, achy or strained. Teachers also may experience problems if it takes more of an effort to speak or they are repeatedly clearing their throat. One of the most common causes for such problems is dry vocal cords.
"Hydration is key and often heavy consumption of caffeine from soft drinks and coffee causes problems," Solomon says. "Normal vocal folds require a thin layer of mucous to lubricate the vocal folds similar to oil in a car engine. In order to maintain the lubrication the entire body must have adequate hydration. I recommend that people reduce their amount of caffeine or spread it throughout the day, as well as increase the amount of water they drink."
It's estimated that nearly 10 percent of the U.S. workforce would be classified as heavy occupational voice users, and teachers are a part of this population, Solomon says.
"Caring for one's voice in this profession also can be a challenge because they talk to large groups consistently throughout the day and are not able to take many breaks," she says.
Other tips for preventive care and information about voice disorders is available at the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association at http://www.asha.org/public/speech/disorders/voice.htm