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Feeling hoarse working from home? TCD is warning your voice could be at risk during lockdown

The research team is conducting a national survey for people to share their experiences.

Image: Shutterstock

A STUDY BY Trinity College Dublin is seeking to find out if the current circumstances are affecting people’s voices due to a lack of face-to-face interaction.

The idea is based on the experience of people who work in call-centres, who can be prone to voice problems due to the nature of their job. This is due to the fact that people tend to raise and tense their voice when they are not face-to-face.

The study is by academics at TCD’s Department of Clinical Speech and Language Studies who say that anecdotal evidence has suggested that some people working from home during this pandemic have started to report symptoms such as hoarseness, or a dry, tight or lump-in-the-throat feeling.

“Our ability to communicate is something we take for granted until it’s gone. We use our voices to catch up with friends, do our jobs and sing to our kids. We use it to tell people when we feel sad, or to share a laugh,” Dr. Ciarán Kenny said yesterday. 

Hoarse voice and an uncomfortable throat are caused by repeated inflammation from straining the voice. If left unchecked, this could lead to long-lasting changes in the voice-box that may need surgery or therapy to address.

The research team is conducting a national survey for people to share their experience of how their voice is holding up during lockdown. In particular, it wants to find out if there are specific areas of work that are potentially more likely to lead to voice problems. 

Among the questions the survey asks are about the physical sensations people are experiencing while working from home, such as burning, tight, dry aching or tickling.

“If this survey finds that voice problems are more common than usual, employers might need to provide information or training to employees about how to work from home safely, even after the pandemic,” Kenny adds.

“It also means that educational institutions that provide distance learning might need to make sure that students are not put at risk.”

About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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