When Voice Teachers Damage Their Own Voice
Recently I have had an experience that it is my job to help people avoid, I injured my voice!!!!!
How did this happen?
It began along time ago but the final straw was Saturday.
First, while I was trying to get my 10 year old to move her butt to get out of the house on time, I lost my temper and screamed at her.
Ouch, screaming with tense vocal folds not a good idea, and it actually did hurt!
Then, at my son’s soccer game, I was the enthusiastic, embarrassing mum on the sidelines bellowing at the team to ‘smile guys, you’ll play better if you have fun’. (I actually did shout that) You get the picture. Second hit to the vocal folds although, having got over my daughter’s deliberate slowness, I was fairly relaxed and thought my bellowing was well supported by the breath which should be ok. Had I warmed up my speaking muscles for a session of bellowing though? No.
The third and worst attack on my already strained vocal muscles was the party in the woolshed at Jude’s farm. Lots of talking over very loud music. Lots of singing over very loud music and then more singing on the bus back to Wellington and bed at 2am. In the past this would not have been a problem for me but this time my poor voice couldn’t take any more.
The next day I woke to find my voice was hoarse, it hurt and felt scarily weak. Given I was running a voice workshop later in the week it was a bit concerning.
So let’s go back in time a bit and see why I think it began a long time ago.
I used to be a primary teacher. As such I would use my voice all day everyday, often in acoustically challenging conditions with a lot of noise. If I was sick I would keep talking. Hoarseness and a tired voice is part of the job right? Teacher training provided no training in how to use or care for one’s most important tool as a teacher, the voice. It still doesn’t. After all it’s just a natural thing speaking isn’t it? I certainly never regarded my voice as muscles needing exercise, training or warming up to perform their task.
In recent years while part time teaching I started finding that by the end of the day, my voice felt so strained, tired and even painful. I would get home and barely want to speak. It made my whole being feel exhausted.
The last straw was going full time back to a class of five year olds. I promptly got sick and stayed sick and kept working and talking non stop all day for three months. This time my voice was getting sore by mid morning. Reading to my class was hard work but I kept doing it. Singing with my class was hard work but I kept doing it. My voice felt constantly fragile and strained. A month after the contract ended the Dr put me on a steroid inhaler to try and eliminate the nagging irritated cough.
Finally I came right. But did I? My voice doesn’t seem as robust as it once was. I also used to have a lovely singing voice. Now I’m not sure if it’s still there. I’m going to see an otolaryngologist to get it checked out so I’ll try and get some photos and let you know what it’s like. Watch this space.
If you are someone who uses your voice a lot in your profession I can’t emphasise enough the importance of understanding how your voice works, taking care of it and preparing it physically in the same way any athlete, singer, dancer, actor or sports person prepares before the performance or game. School teachers have the highest statistics of vocal damage and there is research linking the sound of a teacher’s voice with poor student performance and behaviour.
Here are some interesting links.
The impact of teacher tone
How the teacher’s voice impacts learning
Watch out for my up coming post about my adventure at the otolaryngologist ….eeeek!