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Speak Up! But don't strain your voice

NIDCD Voice Center gave Sherdina Jones

A clinical trial at the NIDCD Voice Center gave Sherdina Jones tools to limit voice strain in the classroom and the choir.
Photo courtesy of University of Pittsburgh Voice Center

"Every year, I would lose my voice at the same time," recalls Sherdina Jones, a 56-year-old Pittsburgh elementary school teacher, librarian, and church choir singer.

Since teachers and singers are at high risk for developing voice problems, Jones accepted it as a matter of course—until she attended an in-service teacher training session on voice disorders.

It was then that University of Pittsburgh Voice Center researchers found small nodules on her vocal folds, a sure sign of voice strain and overuse. At their invitation, Jones took part in a clinical trial sponsored by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) at the Voice Center. She was one of 105 teachers from Pennsylvania and Massachusetts who participated.

Led by Katherine Verdolini, Ph.D., the trial tested which therapy was more effective at increasing volume: humming exercises or airflow practice. Once a week over five weeks, Jones received 90 minutes of therapy. "They showed you how to get the kids' attention without screaming, how to get more volume," she explains.

Although her throat nodules didn't change, Jones reports not having had a sore throat since. "I always used to have lozenges with me, but not anymore!" Her singing range is higher now, too. And she did not lose her voice last year.

Fall 2008 Issue: Volume 3 Number 4 Page 17