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Voice Problems: An Occupational Hazard for Teachers - 07/23/2010

Voice Problems: An Occupational Hazard for Teachers

Release Date: July 23, 2010

In the coming weeks, most back-to-school stories will focus on parents and schools helping kids make the transition from the liberal summer vacation schedule to a more regimented one and offering ways on how students can reach their full academic potential.  Seldom do any of these stories focus on something just as important:  the teachers. 

The American Academy of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery (AAO-HNS) says more than one in four people in the United States report voice disorders during their lifetime and that this is a particular problem among teachers. As part of their profession, teachers use their voices constantly and often in noisy rooms with poor acoustics, forced to project their voices loud enough so that all students can hear them clearly. Unfortunately, this voice stress can lead to voice problems.  As many as 47 percent of our nation’s teachers experience some degree of voice abnormality on any given day, 20 percent of teachers report missing work due to voice problems, and one in 10 teachers has been forced to leave the profession because of the condition. 

Conservative cost estimates for therapy, surgery and substitute teaching personnel top $2 billion annually in the United States alone. Reports from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) note that in addition to overuse of the vocal cords, other causes of voice problems include upper respiratory infections, vocal nodules or other growths, laryngeal cancer and more.  Fortunately, most of these disorders can be successfully treated or avoided.

After spending the summer resting their voices, teachers will soon start getting ready for the 10-month grind of being educators. An interview, via an ask the expert and/or blog, with Lee M. Akst, M.D., an assistant professor in the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine Department of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery and director of the Johns Hopkins Voice Center, might be a good way to bring attention to vocal issues among teachers and provide insight to proper measures on how can protect their voices during the school year. 

For the Media

?Media Contact: John M. Lazarou