A Teacher's Voice
Save it before you lose it
Did you know that in a survey of primary school teachers in Singapore, 65% of teachers have to take sick leave for a voice problem every year? Of that, 9.3% have had to take longer than 6 days of sick leave to nurse their voices*
Teachers are what we call occupational voice users. This means that they depend on their voices to function in their work. Without a doubt, the vocal demands on teachers are extremely high, with teachers having to teach multiple classes a day, and additional activities after school that may require a teacher to shout across a field, or raise their voices at a track meet.
The most common problem teachers face is muscle-tension dysphonia (MTD). It also goes by many other names, including muscle-misuse dysphonia, and vocal hyperfunction. Dysphonia is basically a medical term for a voice disorder, and "muscle-tension" is essentially a description of the type of dysphonia.
In MTD, there is nothing physically wrong with your vocal folds (no growths, polyps, cysts), but the dysphonia arises from the muscles in the voice box being too "tense" to allow normal vocal fold vibration. This in turn affects the voice, which can become hoarse, tired, and can lack projection and clarity. If the MTD is not treated, it can lead to more serious voice problems in future like nodules and polyps, which are more difficult to treat.
Treatment for MTD
The primary treatment for MTD is voice therapy, carried out by a speech-language pathologist. The outcomes for treatment are usually very good, but early assessment and intervention is important. The speech-language pathologist will first focus on reducing the tension in the throat, then move on to teach the teacher how to use the voice and project in a safe, efficient manner.
What's cool is that learning good vocal habits and technique can prevent you from developing MTD as well. This goes beyond just "using your diaphragm", which if not taught correctly, can introduce more problems and aerodynamic-muscular imbalances.
In that same study, close to 90% of the teachers felt that a workshop to teach voice care and projection techniques will be helpful, but few, if any, of such workshops are readily available for teachers and for schools. We're hoping to help fill that gap.
If you identify with some of the difficulties above, or know a teacher who would benefit from some help, do get in contact with us to see how we can help. You can also contact us to arrange for workshops for your school, and even for group therapy sessions if more than one teacher in the school has difficulties.
*Charn, T.C. & Mok, Paul (2011). Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg August 2011 Vol 145, No.2 Supp. P201