A teacher’s voice is their most important tool; for engaging and motivating pupils, delivering important information clearly, supporting social and emotional development, and managing behaviour.

Due to the nature of the job, and a lack of training of how to look after the voice, teachers are at a considerably greater risk for voice difficulties. According to a report from the National Education Union, teachers are eight times more likely to suffer voice problems than any other profession. Many teachers experience periods of discomfort, hoarseness and vocal fatigue, which in severe cases can result in voice disorder. Common factors contributing to voice difficulties are speaking for long periods of time when tired or stressed, and vocal strain from teaching against background noise. Like any other part of the body that we regularly use, our voice needs to be looked after, so that we can rely on it to continue to work in the way that we need it to.

With the risk of voice difficulties already high for teaching staff, the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, including the pressure of remote teaching, is only likely to have exacerbated this risk. During the third period of lockdown, teaching staff were expected to teach keyworker pupils face to face, often in large and increasing numbers, whilst also providing remote provision for those learning at home. Add to this the need to equally support pupils with and without access to technology or internet, and to navigate the logistics of supporting pupils who only have access to devices at certain times of the day. The ability to achieve this whilst maintaining motivation and engagement for learning, and coping with constant change, is bound to take a toll. Looking after the voice has always been important for teachers, however, many factors during this time are likely to have caused or contributed to voice difficulties for many.


When using electronic devices, we are all guilty of adopting ‘tech neck’ posture, where the head juts forward of our shoulders and droops down. This is especially true when sitting for long periods of time, slumped in front of a laptop or phone. During the pandemic, we have all spent increasing amounts of time in this position for communicating with friends and family, and for attending meetings and training. This has been particularly true for teachers in delivering learning for pupils remotely. The spine is designed to hold the weight of the head balanced and centred above the shoulders. As the head juts forward and down, additional pressure is placed on the spine, resulting in the muscles of the neck tightening to compensate. Not only can this result in pain in the back, neck and shoulders, but it leads to increased tension in the throat and more effort needed to produce voice. Additionally, sitting in a slumped position, reduces our lung capacity and breath support, again resulting in vocal strain.

Top tip

Imagine a piece of string attached to the crown of your head that is pulling upwards, to create a long free neck. Try to sit with the shoulders directly over the hips, increasing lung capacity and breath support for voice. Think about how you position your laptop, tablet or phone when speaking, especially for prolonged periods of time, to support your posture. If you can, set yourself up so you can stand and talk.

Prolonged Talking

Whether delivering live remote teaching or recording lessons, teachers have been using their voices throughout the pandemic in a very different way. It has not been possible to achieve the same back and forth interaction during live delivery of remote lessons, as within face-to-face lessons and often this means that teachers are doing more of the talking. Supporting a range of different pupils has also meant increased time preparing, delivering, and recording lessons, meaning that teachers are likely to have been talking for longer periods of time.

Top tip

No athlete would attempt to perform without warming up, and as vocal athletes, teachers need to warm up their voice. Start with shoulder shrugs and neck rolls to loosen up the neck and shoulders, then move onto the face by tightening and relaxing muscles to release tension, for example by exaggerated yawning and smiling. Gently yawning and exhaling with a sigh can help to relax the voice.

Social Distancing and Face Masks

Social distancing rules in place such as spacing of desks and use of screens may mean that teachers need to project their voices more in order to be heard and understood. Having windows open to provide ventilation can result in increased background noise and a need to compete with this. Children are likely to find it more difficult to understand teachers wearing face masks, as the voice sounds more muffled, and they are not able to use lip reading clues.

Top tip

Use amplification within the classroom so that you don’t need to strain your voice in order to be heard. Think about the key messages you want to deliver and use visuals and gestures to back up this information, so that children are not relying only on your talking. Try to ensure the general level of noise in the classroom is kept low, to reduce what you are competing against!

Stress and Anxiety

It is an understatement to say that teaching during the pandemic has been extremely stressful and anxiety inducing. Stress and anxiety can affect the voice by making our throat and the muscles used for producing voice tight, tense, and strained. This means that the voice is unable to work effectively.

Top tip

Take time to relax and look after yourself; complete activities in your spare time that you enjoy. Use relaxation techniques, mindfulness, exercise, and breathing techniques to relax the body, and the voice.

Pushing Through Problems

If you are experiencing difficulties with your voice; it sounds a bit hoarse, you have some discomfort in your throat, or you lose your voice at points during the day, it is very tempting to push on and continue to use the voice in the same way. However, if the voice is pushed to work, we can develop an unhealthy pattern of straining the voice too hard to get it to work, causing further irritation.

Top tip

Resting the voice is the best way to speed up its recovery. If you know that you are going to be speaking for long chunks of time, try and space these out with time for voice rest in between. Identify time in the evenings or at weekends when you can have complete voice rest. If your voice is tired, avoid shouting, screaming, singing and whispering as these put additional strain on the voice. If you experience difficulties with your voice that go on for longer than three weeks, it is important that you speak to your GP about this.

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