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CJ Replay: Vocal Risk-Factors for Teachers

(An excerpt from the Choral Journal article, “Making the Connection Between Healthy Voice and Successful Teaching and Learning in the Music Classroom,” by Mary Lynn Doherty)
       Research suggests that there are universal, rather than population-specific, vocally abusive behaviors associated with teaching. Teaching requires vocal endurance, often in stressful conditions, where there is an expectation of optimal voice quality, and in environments that encourage ineffective voice use. Prolonged voice use using verbal teaching strategies, often in the presence of background noise, has been implicated as a cause of vocal impairment among members of the profession. In addition, speaking at higher volume levels than normally required for conversation is a common behavior of teachers. Diet/nutrition, hydration, stress management, and voice conservation practices also play a role in a teacher’s ability to maintain healthy voice. Poor acoustics and ventilation are common in today’s school classrooms, and can lead to medical conditions that put the voice mechanism at risk for injury. Intensified teaching schedules and loads prevent teachers from resting the voice throughout the teaching day; besides their subject matter, many school music teachers have bus, hall, or lunch duty as well as other “extras’ built into their assigned load.
       Even if a teacher is knowledgeable about the voice and vocal health, the athletic voice use
required for teaching can cause vocal fatigue and abuse and potentially, phonotrauma. As professional voice users, teachers rely on a consistent voice quality as a primary tool of the trade. When teachers experience vocal strain, fatigue, dysphonia (abnormal voice), or aphonia (loss of voice), the ability to perform their professional duties is inhibited. There is ample evidence in the literature that teaching can be harmful to the voice.