Voice care in the workplace

Summer 2021 By Stephanie Foster | Occupational Health Advisor at PAM Physio Solutions for OH Today Magazine
Speech is our main method of articulating language and is therefore essential to almost all job roles.
Language is a defining feature of what makes us human. This is and is our predominant method of communicating ideas, thoughts, and feelings.

Speech is our main method of articulating language and is therefore essential to almost all job roles. However, some roles such as teaching or call handling are more heavily dependent on vocal communication than others.

“Approximately 1 in 40 people experience some form of long-term voice problem during their lives. However, incredibly, 30% of people suffer from some kind of voice problem during their lifetime” Source, The Larry Project

How do we produce speech?

Respiration: Airflow is an essential element of speech. At rest, the time taken to breathe in and out is about equal. However, during speech, our breathing pattern changes, we breathe in quickly and slowly release air in a controlled manner utilizing the diaphragm and abdominal muscles. The pitch, speed and volume of speech dictate how quickly we need to expel the air. Longer sentences require larger volumes of air. Respiratory conditions that restrict airflow can therefore affect speech, as has been recently clearly demonstrated by COVID 19.

Phonation (voicing): Exhaled air is pushed up through the glottis, the gap between the vocal cords (also known as the vocal folds) making them vibrate at speed. In turn, this causes the exhaled air to vibrate. The vocal cords are membranes stretched across the larynx which, when we are silent, are relaxed and open allowing air in and out the lungs unobstructed. Vocal cord disorders are often caused by vocal abuse or misuse, disease or surgery. Symptoms may include a raspy, hoarse, low, or breathy voice, or trouble swallowing or coughing. Ageing also causes changes in both the vocal cords and the muscles that control them, affecting the quality of the voice. Some medication can also have an impact e.g. Ramipril can induce a persistent cough and inhaled steroids, such as those used in the treatment of asthma, can cause hoarseness, although using a spacer device can help reduce the risk of this.

Resonance: The vibrating exhaled air is amplified and modified by the cavities of the throat, mouth and nasal passages. It is the nature of these cavities which create an individual’s recognisable voice.

Articulation: This is the process of manipulating the sound using our tongue, teeth and lips to produce words.

Read more here: OH Today

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