The Voice as an occupational hazard

An occupational hazard for most teachers, particularly in Covid times, what with stress and the need to keep the attention of blended classrooms, is the toll on their throats. Prevention being better than cure, here are a few tips for improved throat health:

Hydration, rest, posture and good vocal technique

  1. Warm up your vocal cords, perhaps with a light humming, before starting a lecture.
  2. Speak not from the throat but from the diaphragm.
  3. Don’t habitually whisper or yell or cheer, but keep your voice within your normal (comfortable) vocal range. Trying to talk above chattering children or other noisy background tends to strain the voice.
  4. Learn the singers’ trick of throwing your voice rather than raising it.
  5. Let your voice have periods of rest.
  6. Where possible, use a classroom-tailored microphone.
  7. Avoid frequently clearing your throat, which can be rough on the vocal cords.
  8. Instead, drink sips of water (room temperature) every 15 minutes of talking. Staying hydrated helps the vocal cords.
  9. Ensure good posture: straight back and raised head. Poor posture can constrict and strain the throat and can reduce airflow.
  10. Eat well with lots of fresh whole grains and veggies, which goes a long way to improve immunity and reduce chances of catching the flu.
  11. Exercise well for health and strong muscle tone.
  12. Breathe correctly. Breath flow when speaking is often faulty in many people. Breathing exercises can be remedial.

To strengthen vocal cords and increase vocal range, a routine of regular vocal exercises will increase flexibility in the long run. Voice therapy by an experienced professional can also help ensure you use your voice in the most efficient way.

Home remedies: gargle, drink warm liquids, rest and steam

If it’s a mild case of sore throat, simple solutions may do the trick:

  1. Rest your voice, don’t overstrain or whisper. Whispering can often be more of a strain than the use of your regular voice.
  2. Gargle with salt in warm water a couple of times a day.
  3. Drink a lot of warm water. Moisturising is key to healthy vocal cords.
  4. Steam inhalation and hot showers help lubricate the vocal cords.
  5. Use a humidifier.
  6. Sucking (non-menthol) lozenges helps but decongestants dry out the throat.
  7. Avoid coffee, tea, alcohol, spicy food or other potential irritants.
  8. And of course ensure you consume the right vitamins.

Hoarseness, discomfort or the need to frequently clear your throat could also be caused by acid reflux, allergies and sinusitis. This would need to be checked by a doctor. Laryngitis usually clears up on its own, but to prevent it from turning into a chronic condition it is best to see a medical professional if it persists.