Vocal Hygiene For Teachers

Following on from our Teacher Tip Tuesday about Vocal Hygiene; here are some more tips to protect and look after your voice throughout the school term.

Excessive talking

Why it’s bad: Laryngeal muscles become fatigued and more liable to strain, therefore your throat gets sore.

• Plan talking times to have a heavy talking period followed by a low or non-talking period

• Set aside periods for voice rest • Ensure sufficient sleep and rest before a busy day

Shouting or raising the voice over distance

Why it’s bad: This causes you to produce voice when the larynx is tense. Increased vibration of the vocal folds causes swelling and irritation. Tensing can also hinder breathing.

• Move closer to your listeners

• Use non-verbal attention seeking techniques (clapping, blowing a whistle, turning the lights off and on, raising your hand)

• If others are talking too loudly lower the volume of your own voice and see if they can match it

• Use an amplification system (e.g. microphone) when presenting to large groups

• Ensure your mouth is wide open to maximise the volume

Talking over background noise

Why it’s bad: This also increases the tension of the laryngeal muscles

• Close doors or windows.

• Turn down the radio, TV or background music.

• Wait for a pause in the conversation rather than talking over others.

• Avoid shouting in noisy places.

• Think about inside vs. outside teaching

• Use curtains, rugs, wall hangings, and student work around the room to absorb sounds

Throat Clearing and Coughing

Why it’s bad: it causes the vocal cords to violently bang together. This results in damage at the point of contact.

• Increase the awareness of the number of times you do it

• Try to clear your throat with closed mouth swallows

• Sip water

• Chew gum

• If you have to, do so gently to avoid vocal cord damage


Why it’s bad: Dries out and irritates the larynx, which may cause you to throat clear or cough more. Internal dehydration comes from too much caffeine, alcohol, drying drugs, or sweating without fluid replacement.

• Chew gum

• Drink at least 2L of water a day

• Always have water handy when talking a lot

• Avoid drinking alcohol (at least until Friday afternoon)

• Avoid medications that dry the throat (e.g. menthol lollies)

External dehydration May come from breathing in dry/smokey air, breathing with an open mouth, smoking, and certain drying medications. The cords can be re-hydrated by inhaling steam (i.e. hot shower, facial steamer, hot-water vaporizer). It is also good to limit smoking in general, but especially during school hours.

Reduce Stress

Why it’s bad: Mental health/psychological upset can interfere with normal voice production. When the voice is lost as a result of emotional distress it is usually termed a ‘psychogenic’ voice disorder. Stress and other psychological issues can cause: Increased muscle tension and hyper- contraction of vocal muscles, dry mouth and throat, and laryngeal pain. It might hurt to speak, you might sound hoarse or not be able to speak at all.

• Use relaxation techniques

• Consider seeing a speech pathologist, doctor or psychologist to resolve the underlying issue

• Manual Therapy/laryngeal massage

• Medication

Breath support

• When speaking, concentrate on good breath support. If you run out of air, don’t force yourself to speak. Take frequent pauses & breaths

• Sit and stand with correct posture. A slouched posture may contribute to poor respiratory support, which may ultimately result in a weak, ineffective, hoarse voice; Keep your neck & jaw as relaxed as possible while you speak

Britany Bates - Speech Pathologist