Poor vocal habits can result in long-term voice problems. Managing voice fatigue and strain in schools involves identifying tasks and areas where voice strain may occur and implementing appropriate control measures.
Research shows that up to 20% of teachers experience voice problems each year. Voice problems are commonly experienced by music teachers, physical education teachers, language teachers and primary school teachers. The majority of voice problems can be prevented by providing teachers with the right information about voice care.
The school will identify those areas (particularly those that are inherently noisy) that may contribute to voice problems. These areas may include:
- Open plan classrooms
- Areas with poor insulation from external noise (e.g. thin walls or partitions, poor fitting doors or windows)
- Environments with hard surfaces which cause reverberation such as linoleum, ceramic tiles, concrete or timber flooring or walls
- Environments with high levels of background noise such as technology areas, workshops etc
- Outdoor settings
- Swimming pools
- Environments which require staff to talk loudly or to project their voice over distances.
Who is likely to be at risk?
- Teachers whose voice problems are exacerbated because they tolerate discomfort and do not seek help
- Teachers early in their careers (1 to 5 years) and those with more than 15 years of teaching experience
- Teachers of music, physical education and language and primary school teachers
- Teachers working in inherently noisy environments which require them to raise their voice over long periods of time.
Strategies to reduce the risk of voice problems
- Encouraging staff to report issues and seek help before their voice problems get worse
- Implementing classroom acoustic management strategies to reduce overall noise levels by replacing noisy floor surfaces with carpets or improving sound insulation to lower noise levels from external sources
- Developing classroom management strategies that reduce the need for teachers to continuously raise their voices or the amount of time that they need to speak
- Providing voice amplifiers for staff with voice injuries
- Arranging the classroom so that students who are likely to be noisy or need extra attention are at the front
- Talking to groups or classes when the students are quiet
- Positioning noisy students at the front of the class
- Planning the day so that you build in vocal rest periods
- Drinking water frequently throughout the day.