Keep Your Voice Healthy At Work

If you work in a call center for example, your job depends on your voice, and you are considered an occupational voice user. Your voice is the only tool you have to convey your company’s message. Whether your call center is in retail, finance, technical support, bill collecting, or you schedule appointments in health care, your voice is your only link with the customer. In this environment, a healthy, pleasing voice is critical for building trust with customers. Just as neat professional attire is essential for face-to-face interactions with clients, successful phone interactions depend on the clarity of the voice. So a healthy voice is crucial, but because you are talking on the phone nearly 40 hours a week, you are at risk for damaging your voice and developing hoarseness resulting in:

  • Fewer calls per hour
  • More breaks away from the phone
  • Repeating yourself
  • Needing to force the voice out
  • Increased sick days


Voice experts now think of voice problems as a form of repetitive motion injury, because the vocal folds are being injured by overuse, similar to the way data entry personnel may develop carpal tunnel syndrome.

When we talk, the vocal folds vibrate approximately 200 times a second for women and about half that for men. That can add up to more than a million cycles of vibration during a work day at a call center. Multiply that by five days a week, and this kind of repetitive motion causes excessive impact on the tissues of the vocal folds and can lead to vocal injury.  If your voice is tired after a day of work, you may risk injury if you yell at a sports event, talk loudly at a party, or sing at the church choir rehearsal — all activities involving more vocal-fold vibration.

Vocal Hygiene

These strategies help keep the throat moist and free from irritation, so the vocal folds are less likely to be injured:

  • Drink 64 ounces of water (or non-caffeinated liquid) during the day
  • Keep water at your workstation
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol, which are drying to the throat
  • Avoid excess coughing and throat clearing
  • Don’t smoke. Smoking causes irritation and can lead to cancer
  • Don’t work on the phone if you are hoarse due to a cold or upper respiratory infection
  • Work with you doctor to manage any medical conditions that can cause throat irritation including acid reflux, postnasal drainage, allergies, asthma, and endocrine conditions

Work Environment

The call center work environment should support healthy voice habits. Any environmental factor that causes you to raise your voice is detrimental, since the vocal folds vibrate together with even greater force when you use a louder voice. Loud voice use can lead to injury more quickly. Monitor your vocal loudness, and turn down the volume on your voice whenever possible.

Tips to manage vocal loudness:

  • Headsets should not force you to be louder
  • Background noise should be kept to a minimum
  • Use cubicles or partitions for better acoustical protection from background noise
  • Humidity should not be below 40 percent
  • Temperature should be well controlled
  • Chairs, desks, headsets, lighting, and keyboards should all promote good ergonomics to help you maintain good posture and avoid excess tension

Get Help Early

Don’t wait until you have lost your voice to seek medical help. Pay attention to subtle signs that your voice is getting tired — dry throat, raw or tired feeling in the throat, increased mucus in the throat, feeling like talking takes more effort, feeling throat strain — in addition to a raspy or hoarse voice. If you notice voice fatigue or hoarseness, you should have a voice evaluation with an otolaryngologist  and voice-trained speech-language pathologist (SLP), who can provide a diagnosis and a plan to help you get your voice back. Often, resolution of the voice problem involves working with a voice-trained speech-language pathologist (SLP), to show you how to use your voice in the most relaxed, efficient, healthy manner to recover from injury and avoid injury in the future. Our voice specialists can help you achieve optimal management of medical, environmental and vocal use factors relative to your voice problem.

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