Who is an occupational or professional voice
Anyone whose voice is essential to their
job can be considered an occupational or
professional voice user. We are all accustomed
to thinking of singers, actors, actresses,
and broadcast personalities as professional
voice users. Indeed, special or unique qualities
of the voice are often the essential feature
of their careers.
But what about other occupational voice users? Teachers,
clergy, salespeople, courtroom attorneys, telemarketers,
and receptionists, are just some of the people for
whom spoken communication is an essential part of
what they do. Even in the era of e-mail and the internet,
we can’t really imagine an effective classroom,
pulpit, or courtroom without voice. What about a
physician conveying sensitive or complex information
to a patient or colleague, or a business executive
conducting a meeting? Once you pause to consider
it, you realize that voice is crucial to many professions.
Why is this important?
Voice is something that is often taken
for granted. Many people, including many
occupational voice users, don’t pay
attention to their voice until they develop
a significant problem with it. These voice
problems then have an adverse effect upon
their ability to do their job.
Consider, for example, a school teacher.
Arguably, this is the most vocally demanding
profession. Teachers are using their voices
constantly, often in noisy rooms with poor
acoustics. One study showed that elementary
and high school teachers reported voice
problems at a rate nearly three times that
of a randomly selected group of individuals
who worked in a variety of other occupations.
In another study, about 20% of teachers,
but only 4% of non-teachers, had missed
work due to their voice. It is thus very
clear from the medical literature that high
voice demands in the workplace can have
health consequences for the individual,
and productivity consequences for the employer.
Research is ongoing into strategies to enhance
the vocal health of individuals in professions
with high voice demands.
What can be done about these issues?
Awareness is the key. Awareness, first
of all, about voice-related occupations.
A person may not even know that they are
in such a profession until a voice problem
brings the issue to the forefront. Secondly,
awareness that high voice demand occupations
do place you at greater risk for developing
vocal difficulties, and that you have to
listen to your own voice in order to recognize
when you are developing problems. Do not
accept hoarseness as part of the job. Finally,
be aware that proper evaluation and treatment
can take care of almost all voice-related
problems, and preventative measures can
set you up to succeed at even the most demanding