Vocal Fatigue & Hoarseness - The Zoom ‘Sickness’

Hello, fellow clinicians, Zoomers, and teleconferencers!

My fellow SLPs and I were talking and the discussion around voice use during telehealth sessions came up and in turn, we all realized something. We figured out that our voices are being negatively impacted seemingly secondary to the increase in telehealth treatment sessions we have been doing. Ironic I know, but this irony is not new to our field, as voice problems (typically vocal fatigue) are all too common amongst the very providers that offer voice therapy. As telehealth therapy services and teleconferencing, in general, are seemingly going to become progressively more common, I think it’s pertinent that we take a real look at how to use our voices during telehealth and teleconferencing sessions.

Vocal Use & Maintenance Strategies for Online Communication:

Increase Hydration

  • We all know hydration is important to vocal health, but do we always prioritize hydration for ourselves? Waking up with a dry mouth is commonplace especially here in Las Vegas and a perfect example of what happens to you when you haven’t drunk enough water in a while. Personally, I strive to maintain appropriate water intake, but sometimes I lapse or forget to bring water somewhere when I’m out and about. I typically notice the effects of this by the time I get back home. So, it’s best to keep water nearby and drink water regularly throughout the day.

Use Vocal Exercises

  • This may seem like a ‘duh’ recommendation to speech-language pathologists (SLPs), but if you notice your voice seems tired or hoarse, perhaps you should try voice exercises. As someone who has a history of overusing and misusing his voice, I’ve made a conscious effort to practice voice exercises more regularly especially if I’m noticing increased tiredness or vocal fatigue. I’ve noticed a benefit from completing these exercises regularly. For you non-SLPs, doing voice exercises can help to improve your overall voice, lessen vocal tiredness, and improve your voice recovery after voice misuse.

Practice Vocal Rest

  • I know this may seem like another obvious recommendation, but I’m the first to admit that actively practicing vocal rest is easier said than done. However, we are definitely capable of setting aside the time for vocal rest, especially on the weekends and after our workdays have ended. Extended vocal rest can often give you an immediate boost to voice, especially when experiencing a more tired or hoarse voice.

Keep the Right Distance

  • However, you are communicating online, it is important to keep yourself close to your communication device so that you’re not so far away. The closer you are the less loudly you must speak, which lessens the likelihood of vocal misuse or abuse. However, also make sure you’re not too close as it will likely distort your voice and lower the overall quality of your teleconferencing or teletherapy session.

Close Unnecessary Apps and Programs Running in the Background/Free Up Your Wi-Fi Bandwidth

  • The better the quality of your telehealth session or teleconferencing call the better your voice will sound. In turn, you won’t need to repeat yourself unnecessarily and will be heard more effectively with less effort and a quieter voice. To ensure maximal functionality, close all unnecessary apps and programs on your computer or device. This will allow your device to run optimally and ideally translate to better, more effective teleconferencing and teletherapy. Additionally, ensure that you are accessing the best Internet connection possible. The more powerful the Internet connection the better the session will run. Discourage others from using the Internet in your house while you are using a teleconferencing or teletherapy platform, especially if it is something that uses more bandwidth like online video games or streaming videos or movies. These additional drains on your Internet are likely to negatively impact your audio and video quality. Lastly, let’s be realistic; if you’re using a phone instead of a computer, you’re less likely to get the best performance out of any teleconferencing or teletherapy platform. So, when able, use a computer.

Consider an External Microphone or Headset

  • For people that plan on using remote video/audio platforms regularly, I think it is worth it to get a good headset and microphone to enhance your quality so that you’re better understood. You’re likely only going to get so far using just the built-in audio on your device. There are many options out there so do your own research and determine what is best for you and your needs.

Thanks for reading and I hope you get some benefit out of the strategies discussed here. I encourage you to try at least one of these strategies if you’re using any kind of teleconferencing platform with regularity. Incorporating these strategies consistently can help you to have a better voice and maintain your voice quality for longer. If you enjoyed this post, check out some of my other posts on Facebook.

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