Lung function may affect vocal health for women

Washington, D. C. May 25, 2016 — Teaching is an occupation with a high risk of developing vocal problems — teachers have more than twice the voice problems than people in other professions, as the voice is the major tool in classroom instruction and is often used for long periods of time and in noisy environments. Additionally, females face a significantly higher risk than men of developing long-term vocal problems. Therefore female teachers, the predominate population of teaching workforce, face a dual risk for developing prolonged voice problem. In a collaboration between Harvard Medical School and the Gould Voice Research Center, researchers displayed that the cost of teachers’ voice injuries to the U.S. economy is estimated at US$2.5 billion per year. As a result, many scientists have worked on finding the physiological causes to help teachers prevent and treat voice problems.

Vocal fatigue is a common complaint among teachers and one of the most debilitating conditions that can lead to vocal damage. The typical symptoms include hoarseness, vocal tiredness, muscle pains and lost or cracked notes. However, the actual physiological mechanism of vocal fatigue is still being explored, and it is often difficult to accurately diagnose the cause as the patients’ vocal folds may look normal during an exam.

Now, a group of researchers from Michigan State University and the University of Utah have found a potential link between pulmonary function and the symptoms of voice fatigue unique to women. The study proposed a common, simple, low-cost tool that could aid medical experts in detecting potential voice fatigue at an early stage, which would help teachers to better prevent and treat voice problems. The researchers will present this work at the 171th Meeting of the Acoustical Society of America (ASA), being held May. 23-27, 2016 in Salt Lake City, Utah.
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