Recess for teachers’ voices

"After using the FrontRow system I would go home a lot more relaxed"

—Dan Gurney
Kindergarten Teacher
Dunham Elementary (California)

Most students and teachers are familiar with ‘the teacher voice:' the raised, narrow-range, slightly irritated-sounding voice teachers use to try to compensate for distance and noise in the classroom. Using that voice means teachers are at risk of developing vocal health problems. According to the University of Iowa's National Center for Voice and Speech, half of all teachers experience a voice disorder at some time in their career, compared to about 5 percent of the general population. And sometimes that means they're missing school.

Ironically, the 'teacher voice' can in fact impair communication. Raising the voice emphasizes vowel sounds and tends to mask the consonant sounds that carry around 70% of the meaning in speech (try projecting an 'a' sound versus an 'f' sound).

Graph showing how FrontRow reduces teacher sick days due to laryngitis

Reduction in Sick Days Due to Laryngitis: Teachers using FrontRow classroom audio are less likely to suffer from laryngitis

Using a FrontRow sound system can help. Because the system is doing the work of projecting the teacher's voice, he or she can speak in a normal tone of voice — or even whisper — and still be heard clearly. This not only greatly reduces voice strain while preserving speech clarity, it also helps the teacher employ a fuller range of expression and emphasis in communicating with students, making for a more engaging, multi-tonal presentation style.

In a survey of 56 Dubuque (Iowa) public school teachers, researchers compared sick days due to voice or throat problems before and after using a sound system. Teachers using the technology reported a decline from an average of .93 sick days per year to .34 sick days per year — a reduction of 63%.

Studies showing reduction in teacher voice problems

Teachers are at increased risk for vocal problems compared to individuals in other professions, a phenomenon which is well documented in the literature (Gotaas & Starr, 1993; Morton & Watson, 1998; Preciado-Lopez, Perez-Fernandez, Calzada-Uriondo, 2008; Smith, Gray, Dove, Kirchner & Heras, 1997; Titze, Lemke & Montequin, 1996; Vilkman, 2004). Gotaas & Starr (1993) in fact, reported that 80% of teachers surveyed reported vocal problems.

Further Reading

Sapienza, Crandell & Curtis (1999) found that teachers used less vocal effort when they used a classroom sound system; they were able to speak more softly with the sound system but still be heard more effectively by their students. A study by Jonsdottir (2002) of teachers and students from elementary school classrooms, and college/university classrooms indicated that without amplification, 70% of teachers reported throat discomfort prior to trial of classroom sound amplification; this decreased to 27% after classroom sound installation. Ray et al., (2002) found that teachers using voice amplification reported less voice handicap and voice disorder severity, which was corroborated by objective acoustic analysis following a 6 week trial than teachers in a control group.


Allen, L. (1995). The effect of sound field amplification on teacher vocal abuse problems. Paper presented at the Educational Audiology Association Conference, Lake Lure, NC.

Boswell, S. (2006, May 23). Sound field systems on the rise in schools: Improved test scores cited as benefit. The ASHA Leader, 11(7), 1, 32-33.

Gotaas, C., & Starr, C. (1993). Vocal fatigue among teachers. Folia Phoniatrica et Logopaedica, 45, 120-9.

Jonsdottir, V., Laukkanen, A. & Siikki, I. (2003). Changes in teachers' voice quality during a working day with and without electric sound amplification. Folia Phoniatrica et Logopaedica, 55, 267-280

Morton, V., & Watson, D. (1998). The teaching voice: Problems and perceptions. Folia Phoniatrica et Logopaedica, 55, 133-139.

Preciado-Lopez, J., Perez-Fernandez, C., Calzada-Uriondo, M., & Precidado-Ruiz, P. (2008). Epidemiological study of voice disorders among teaching professionals of La Rioja, Spain. Journal of Voice, 22(4), 489-508.

Roy, N., Weinrich, B., Gray, S., Tanner, K., Toledo, S., Dove, H., Corbin-Lewis, K., & Stemple, C. (2002). Voice amplification versus vocal hygiene instruction for teachers with voice disorders: A treatment outcomes study. Journal of Speech and Hearing Research, 45, 625-638.

Sapienza, C., Crandell, C., & Curtis, B. (1999). Effects of sound-field frequency modulation amplification on reducing teachers’ sound pressure level in the classroom. Journal of Voice, 13(3), 375-381.

Smith, E., Gray, S., Dove, H., Kirchner, L., & Heras, H. (1997). Frequency and effects of teachers' voice problems. Journal of Voice, 11(1), 81-7.

Titze, I. R., Lemke, J., & Montequin, D. (1996). Populations in the US workforce who rely on voice as a primary tool of trade. NCVS Status and Progress Report, 10, 127-32.

Vilkman, E. (2004). Occupational safety and health aspects of voice and speech professions. Folia Phoniatrica et Logopaedica, 56(4), pg. 220-253.

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