Teachers hardest hit by vocal problems

January 27, 2012 1:47:38 PM PST
When you think of voice problems, you might think of singers, actors, or politicians.

But, specialists tell us, the biggest share of their patients earn their living in the classroom.

One of those patients is Lauren Roberts, who says she loves teaching but it always seemed that she would be losing her voice by the middle of every fall.

"My voice was becoming raspy, very sore, my vocal cords were sore, all the muscles in my throat were extremely sore," Roberts said.

Lozenges and hot tea didn't help much. She'd recover her voice over the weekend, but every Friday, she could barely speak.

That made handling a 4th grade class very difficult.

"The volume is loud," Roberts said. "My voice needs to be louder."

Dr. Joseph Spiegel of Jefferson University Hospital says teachers make up the biggest share of his patients. The calls for help start in the fall, and keep rising into winter.

"If they just start having problems, it just steam rolls, because it's an everyday event - that they have to do it," Dr. Spiegel said. "Some of the most difficult patients are teachers that are also sports coaches in the school."

Dr. Spiegel says Lauren's vocal cords were swollen, and so irritated, a nodule had developed on them. He drained the cyst and recommended vocal therapy, plus tips to use her voice more wisely.

"Speaking as you're walking up and down the aisles, instead of trying to project to the back," said Dr. Spiegel.

Another tip: Don't try to outshout a loud classroom - or other venue. Instead, use non-verbal cues to get peoples' attention.

Lauren also learned that hot tea can swell the vocal cords, making them more vulnerable to injury.

So if you drink tea for your voice, you want the temperature warm but not scalding. Also, acid reflux can add to voice problems. So getting control of that can also help save your voice.