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13-02-2013 | Occupational medicine | Article

Teachers have a high prevalence of voice disorders


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medwireNews: Teachers are significantly more likely to have voice disorders than individuals in other professions, research shows.

"Teachers who work in noisy classrooms, teach physical education, or use a loud speaking voice are at greater risk of associated voice disorders," report Lady Catherine Cantor Cutiva (Erasmus University Medical Center, Rotterdam, the Netherlands) and colleagues in the Journal of Communication Disorders.

In a meta-analysis of published studies, the lifetime prevalence of voice disorders in teachers ranges from 51 to 69%. In total, 23 studies were included in the meta-analysis, and the definition of voice disorders included dysphonia, voice complaints, vocal symptoms, and vocal problems.

However, prevalence estimates varied widely, mainly because of disparities in the definition of voice disorders. The point prevalence of voice disorders among teachers ranged from 9 to 37%, while the 12-month prevalence ranged from 15 to 80%.

The study with the lowest 12-month prevalence estimate used a very specific definition of a voice disorder - the presence of a tired voice or loss of voice quality -and this might have impacted the results, say the researchers.

"Another reason for the observed variation in prevalence of voice disorders is the recall period, whereby a longer recall period will result in a higher prevalence than a short recall period," they add.

Three studies clinically assessed and confirmed voice disorders in the teachers using video or indirect laryngoscopy. Video laryngoscopy provides information about the presence or absence of motor/coordination abnormalities in the vocal folds and helps identify potential problems during phonation, explain Cutiva and colleagues.

In these studies, the verified point prevalence among teachers ranged from 17 to 57%. In another study that compared teachers with non-teachers, the risk for voice disorders was 85% higher among teachers.

In adjusted risk models, high levels of noise in the classroom, teaching physical education, and a perceived need to use a loud voice were all significantly associated with an increased risk for voice disorders.

Physical education teachers have more voice disorders than other teachers, possibly because of the nature of physical education, which requires shouting in large spaces with bad acoustic conditions, state the researchers.

They conclude that voice disorders are an important health problem in the teaching profession, and that further studies are required to understand their consequences on the functioning and work performance of teachers.

By medwireNews Reporters

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