Some experts consider the constant strain on public school teachers’ voices an occupational hazard. One literature review published in the Journal of Voice reports that teachers suffer from voice disorders at a rate two to three times higher than the general population does.
Many teachers are unaware that workers’ compensation laws may cover work-related medical conditions such as vocal cord nodules and polyps.
Vocal strain in the classroom
Teachers use their voices to instruct, discipline and engage with students. The necessity of projecting their voices in noisy classrooms, addressing large groups and repeating instructions can lead to vocal strain. These prolonged periods of speaking without proper vocal care can injure the vocal cords.
Classroom environments, sometimes filled with noise and inadequate acoustics, can contribute to teachers raising their voices so that students can hear them. This behavior can exacerbate vocal strain over time. Additionally, exposure to allergens or irritants such as cologne in the environment may lead to throat discomfort and increase the risk of vocal cord damage.
Preventive measures and vocal hygiene
While teachers are not to blame for injuries they sustain, there are things they can do to reduce their risks. For example, teachers can adopt the following preventive measures to protect their vocal cords:
- Staying hydrated
- Avoiding caffeine
- Using amplification systems when available
- Taking breaks to rest the voice
- Avoiding excessive throat-clearing
- Some hospitals and school districts offer workshops in voice health.
Whether vocal cord injuries qualify for workers’ compensation depends on establishing a direct connection between the job duties and the injury. Teachers must report vocal cord issues to their principals and seek medical attention to support their claims.