Precautionary Tips Teachers Can Use to Protect Their Vocal Chords

She was in the high school choir, actress, speech contestant, and finally a teacher. After only a few years in the classroom, however, she was perpetually hoarse and finally went to see a doctor who found that she had developed nodules on her vocals chords. And it ended up with three weeks of rest, not talking and relieving her tired vocals. The nodules did not need to be removed but decreased significantly in size. Fortunately, she had the sick time to utilize her no talking efforts. Years later, stress, overwork, and lack of sleep would cause the nodules to swell, but she learned different methods of projecting her voice when needed,using voice exercises to exercise her diaphragm more than her vocal cords.

While not dangerous to personal health, the nodules and polyps can make speech permanently hoarse and painful. Having an inflamed throat may also make it harder to tolerate the colds and flu that are already a professional hazard for anyone working around kids, he said. According to John Hopkins throat specialist, Dr. Lee M. Akst.

While teachers might generally be considered to have a relatively danger-free workplace, the Johns Hopkins school of medicine says that many of them could be at risk for problems with their vocal cords given the constant strain placed on them in loud classrooms.

Even when they don’t have to shout at an unruly class of students, teachers must ensure that their voice projects to every corner of their schoolroom adequately, which often means that they must speak louder than they would normally. Couple that with the extensive amount of talking that a teacher must do in a given day, and the conditions are right for vocal cord problems to flourish, according to Johns Hopkins.

The school says that estimates of economic losses due to vocal cord problems – through therapy, surgery, and substitute teachers – reach $2 billion, even at the conservative end of the spectrum. It also adds that 30 percent of teachers are either forced to miss some work or leave the profession entirely because of such problems.

Keeping the vocal cords hydrated helps, so Akst suggests drinking lots of water and limiting diuretics such as caffeinated beverages and alcohol. Staying hydrated is especially important for someone taking medications with drying side effects, such as antihistamines, decongestants and antidepressants.

Teachers should protect their vocal cords by consulting a doctor, just as they would protect their loved ones from the economic effects of their unexpected death by purchasing life insurance.

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