Voice Strain and Bad Acoustics

If your job requires you to speak for a living, you are susceptible to voice strain.

This is a condition where you injure your voice box, it’s a muscle, and if you strain it, you run the risk of damaging it. Depending on the severity of the problem, this damage may become a permanent injury which could impact directly on your livelihood.

Teachers

One profession exposed to this type of injury is the teaching profession. A teacher spends a considerable amount of their time in the classroom instructing and communicating with their students.

While they are unlikely to be deliberately shouting at their students, it’s not uncommon to have to raise their voice in certain circumstances.

However, if this is an on-going occurrence which is caused by a badly designed and acoustically treated classroom, it is not a good situation for a teacher to find themselves in long-term.

What creates this difficult work environment?

What caused this situation to occur is the lack of sound-absorbing materials within a given teaching space/classroom. In simple terms, sound-absorbing material soaks up noise which enhances the acoustic environment and in particular speech intelligibility. This minimises the need to shout/raise your voice which reduces the risk of voice strain.

Proper sound absorption eliminates, in most circumstances, the need to shout to be heard and helps the students listen to what’s being said by the teacher.

School Halls

Another particularly high noise environment is a school campus is the sports hall. These spaces are generally big rooms, high ceilings, timber floors, hard sound-reflecting wall.

The net outcome is a room with a large and loud echo. Pity the poor gym instructor/teacher placed in this situation. Everything is “loud”. The student’s footfall, the ball impacting on the floor, and they have to teach in this environment. So to get their attention, you use a whistle which only serves to inject even more noise into the situation.

The phrase “acoustic shock” comes to mind.

So what’s the solution?

Incorporating acoustic treatment strategies and materials into a school environment presents its unique challenges, but it is still achievable. Any products must be both effective sound absorbers and robust. But such products are commercially available and have been successfully deployed in many school environments.

The prize of protecting a teachers voice from unnecessary strain is a goal worth achieving. Enhancing the student’s ability to hear the teacher’s instructions matches this goal.

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