Hi my name is Maureen Wilson. Not only do I write the speech therapy blog, The Speech Bubble SLP, but I am a school Speech-Language Pathologist. May is kind of a big deal for us SLPs, it’s Better Hearing and Speech Month (BHSM)! This is the month that we SLPs provide some extra information about how to keep your hearing and voice in tip top condition. I want to thank Kristin for letting me guest post and share some information on how you can protect your ‘teacher voice’.
As an educator, you shape young minds and inspire new thoughts everyday. You are also talking all day with little or no time to rest your voice. You’re reading, lecturing, raising your voice to gain kids attention, etc. You are also 32 times more likely to report some type of vocal disorder than any other profession! If you are diagnosed with a vocal disorder, the main instruction from your health care professional would be vocal rest. This can be simply reduce your amount of talking to being put on a ‘vocal lockdown’. Either way, it probably means one thing for a teacher…sub plans! Never fear! I am going to share with you some information and tips that you can use to protect your teacher voice before the sub plans even enter the discussion.
– Whispering ( yes, whispering )
– Constant throat clearing
If these behaviors are performed over and over, with no healing time allowed, your voice you can develop some not so fun conditions such as:
– Vocal edma aka swelling of the vocal folds. When vocal folds swell you can develop a deep, hoarse vocal quality among other things. Think of the movies that had an old waitress working a the dinner who smoked for twenty years…yea. You can sound like that.
– Laryngitis aka your vocal folds are so swollen and inflamed that you sound hoarse and breathy, that is if you have any voice at all.
– and finally, Vocal Nodules aka calluses that can form on your vocal folds and alter your voice pitch and volume.
The good thing is, most of these issues can be treated by making some easy life changes before they get too serious. Here are some things you can do to protect voice:
1. Don’t Talk So Much
Excessive talking is the probably the most common type of vocal abuse. It is like a ‘gateway’ vocal abuse behavior. You keep talking, then start shouting because you feel your voice is going, and so on and so on. As a teacher, you can’t help but talk a lot, I get it. If you feel your voice start to become strained or lower in volume, have students work in partners for a few minutes, complete some work independently, or read. If you have to touch base with a parent or colleague during the day, try sending an email or text instead of calling if you can.
2. Shhhh, Please Don’t Shout
Take your hands and clap them together as hard as you can about 5 or 8 times. Go ahead, I’ll wait…. Did you do it? If you did, your hands probably are a little sore and tingly. When you shout, this is what you are doing to your voice! Yikes! Instead of shouting to get your classes attention, try using a bell or something other noise maker, create an all quiet sign, or flash your room lights. If you have a large room, see if you can get some type of amplification system, like a clip on microphone, so you don’t have to shout to be heard. There is even an app called Noise Down that monitors the volume in your room and sounds an alarm when it gets too loud.
3. Drink Up
We know how important it is to stay hydrated. So, I will probably sound like a broken record when I say ‘Drink Your Water!’ The tissue that makes up your vocal folds need to be moist and hydrated. This comes from drinking water. Think of them like sponges, absorbing the water they need from your body. Keeping yourself hydrated also helps your body and voice repair and heal.
4. Watch Your Plate
What you eat and drink can impact your voice. Things that contain menthol, like minty lozenges, can irritate your vocal folds creating more inflammation. Spicy, greasy foods can irritate your stomach and give you heartburn ( aka acid reflux, GERD, LPR ) that can irritate your vocal folds as well. Even caffeine can be a trigger! So if you notice that your throat hurts or you get heartburn after having some minty gum, coffee, or that spicy taco, maybe skip it next time.
By making these little adjustments to your day you can protect your voice and your sick days. If you have any questions about vocal hygiene you can also ask your super awesome, school SLP ( or any SLP ).