Word on Health

Word On Occupational Voice Disorders

Our grateful thanks to the British Voice Association for their input to this weeks report and forn the use of the information below to find out more visit - www.britishvoiceassociation.org.uk

So..What is an“Occupational Voice Disorder”?  An occupational voice disorder is one that develops as a result of the amount or type of voice use required to do your job. It may also be related to vocal irritants in the work environment or a combination of these factors. For example, teachers have to speak for hours every dayin noisy classrooms, tour guides may be exposed to traffic noise and fumes, or call centre workers who may speak for long periods loudly against background noise and with air conditioning drying their vocal folds.

What is anoccupational voice user?  An occupational voice user is any person who relies on their voice directly or indirectly to carry out their work. Professions that depend directly on voice use include, teachers, call centre workers,actors and singers. Professions relying indirectly on voice use might include lawyers,salesmen, doctors, oradministrators.

What aspects of work can affect voices?

• The amount of voice use

• Noise in the workplace

• Room acoustics: Some rooms absorb noise so voices do not carry

• Distance between the speakerand the listener

• Screens between the speakerand listener

• Air quality: dust,smoke fumes orair conditioning.

• Intercoms/two way radios

Not all voice disorders are related to the workplace... They may be caused by infections, injuries, cysts/scars,medicines or underlying medical conditions. However,a hoarse voice will still impact on our working lives, making us less able to cope with voice use or making us more vulnerable to atmospheric irritants and noise.

Emotion,work & voice Stressful situations,such as dealing with complaints, fear of losing your job, orstrained relationships with colleagues can all add strain on voice production making the voice problem worse

How can you help yourself?

• Seek medical help: make sure your larynxis healthy. If speech therapy is offered attend the sessionsand practice the work regularly.

• Reduce contributoryfactors: Get help to give up smoking. Make sure health problems such as acid reflux are treated. Keep to the management plan provided and take any prescribed medications regularly. Reduce voice use in your social life. Choose quiet venues and give yourself time to rest your voice.

• Reduce voice use at work: Keep voice use to a minimum at work. Use emails instead of phones where possible. Ask colleaguesto share phone work,meetings and presentations where this can be arranged. Use personal amplification when appropriate (for information on personal amplifierssee: www.lary.org.uk)

• Presentations: Use amplification whenever possible. Suggest meetings are held in quiet rooms with a good acoustic. Ask your audience to move closer. Make use of materials with an auditory commentary so you can rest your voice.

• Hydration: Voices work best when they are moist. Make sure you drink plenty of water during the day. Be aware of the drying effect of air-conditioning and open windows more often when possible. Consider investing in a portable steamer and inhale steam during work breaks.

• Atmospheric irritants: use any protective masks provided. Make sure the workplace is well ventilated and that extractor fansare turned on. Report any that are faulty to maintenance.

Where to seek help: If you are worried about your voice seek help from your GP. The GP can identifyand deal with many of the contributing factors in you rvoice disorder. They can also refer you to an ENT surgeon for examination of you rvoice.

The multi-disciplinary voice clinic: If the voice problem does not respond to the treatment you have been given you can ask to be referred to a voice clinic. The voice clinic can provide a detailed assessment of your voice using digital stroboscopy and plan appropriate multi-disciplinary management. A list of NHS clinicsisavailable on the BVA website - www.britishvoiceassociation.org.uk

All material on this website is provided for your information only and may not be construed as medical advice or instruction. No action or inaction should be taken based solely on the contents of this information; instead, readers should consult appropriate health professionals on any matter relating to their health and well-being.