'Voice academy' Web site, funded by NIDCD grant, helps teachers address voice problems

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Teachers increasingly use technology in the classroom but natural tools -- their voices -- still get significant daily use. In fact, teachers are 32 times more likely than people in other professions to have voice disorders.

A Web site recently launched by the University of Iowa Department of Speech Pathology and Audiology in conjunction with the National Center for Voice and Speech will help teachers prevent and treat voice problems. The site, located at http://www.voiceacademy.org/, is a set of virtual classrooms, including a "Science Center," where teachers can learn about voice research, and a "Gymnasium" that provides voice health tips such as how to safely handle a glottal attack (a snap or click heard with words beginning with a vowel).

The site is designed for kindergarten through high school teachers and college instructors, although the information also is relevant for preschool teachers, said Julie Ostrem, program associate in speech pathology and audiology in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and the project's principal investigator.

"When you look at the occupations of people who seek help at voice centers, teaching is among the highest," Ostrem said. "We wanted to create an accessible online resource because, provided the right information, an estimated 75 percent of teachers with voice problems can initiate solutions on their own."

Some people naturally have a robust larynx, or voice box, that can hold up to a lot of use, Ostrem said. However, other people are prone to voice problems such as hoarseness, increased breathiness, or pain and fatigue when speaking. These difficulties may become so severe that teachers prematurely abandon their careers. Fortunately, behavioral changes can prevent most occupational voice disorders, Ostrem said.

The site's "Teachers' Lounge" describes vocal fatigue and the recommendation that it is better to speak

Contact: Becky Soglin
University of Iowa

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