Many times seen as a thankless job, teachers carry a heavy burden, and their voices are often casualties of the job. NY1’s Health Reporter Erin Billups has more in her second report on vocal stress.
They work to captivate classrooms filled with dozens of students, often speaking for eight hours a day. It's no wonder Mount Sinai Laryngologist Michael Pitman calls teachers vocal athletes.
"They actually have the highest voice demand of any profession, period,” Pitman says. “And because of that, because they use their voice so much, they actually have the highest rate of injury and vocal problems in any profession as well."
A grueling schedule and an active social life almost did Samara Spielberg in.
"I 100 percent took my voice for granted, I never thought about it,” says Spielberg, a vocal patient. “If I were out and I was having fun, even if I felt strained, even if it was loud, even if I was tired, I pushed myself and I pushed myself and I pushed myself a little bit too far."
It got to a point where Spielberg was unable to speak while teaching Spanish.
"My voice was so bad that I wasn’t able to get through my classes in a day,” Spielberg says. “I would go home and I was crying because when you love what you do and you don’t think you have a career ahead of you, because you have an injury to the thing you need most, it's the most devastating thing."
Spielberg found Pitman who operated on her throat, removing the scaring and cysts she had developed. She could not work or talk for six weeks after the surgery. She now has regular sessions of vocal therapy. In addition, she has even made Sunday a quiet day to rest her voice before the week ahead.
"Everyone in the world needs to be able to balance work and play, but you have to make a choice when you have vocal problems and I choose teaching over my social life," Spielberg says.
"One of the most important things is how do they take care of themselves so they can teach to their fullest ability and they're never taught how to do that,” Pitman says. “How to take care of their voice, recognize the issues so they can fix them early and so how to have really good vocal hygiene and so that’s something that’s been missing."
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