Reprinted from The RSI Network - Issue 33 - Nov/Dec'98

Barbie Scott, MA, CCC
Walnut Creek, California
(925) 934-2969


If you are using speech recognition in your daily work, your voice has become a primary tool of your work. Your voice means business, literally. If you are a speech recognition user who struggles with poor voice endurance, you know that if your voice is not "in working order" you can't earn money. You have a constantly scratchy and aching throat, along with the apprehension: "I have to finish this work, but if I dictate much longer, my voice will be toast!"

The good news is that extensive voice use does not inevitably cause vocal problems. Rather, unhealthy voice behaviors—in the context of vocally demanding work—cause vocal problems. The manner in which you use your voice is the most significant factor in the health of your voice.

You may respond, "The manner in which I use my voice? I thought all there was to talking was, well, just talking."

There are actually several different unhealthy voice behaviors. Speech recognition users tend to use a few of them: for example, habitually speaking in a pitch range that is a little too low for what your voice is physiologically capable of producing, or habitually bringing your vocal cords together in a slamming fashion when you speak (Bette Davis voice), or using limited jaw movement as you speak (mumbling, essentially), which causes tension in your neck and even in your voice box.

Besides the manner in which you use your voice, other significant factors contribute to the health of your voice. These are voice hygiene issues, which are more immediately understood than the voice behaviors. Some of these voice hygiene concepts are expressed below in the form of advice.

  • drink two liters of water a day; don't skimp on the amount because the mucosal covering to your vocal cords needs this amount to stay supple, ready to vibrate
  • limit intake of dehydrative substances (caffeine, alcohol)
  • when you do get a cold with laryngitis, take time off from your dictation—or, at least, don't force your voice
  • when you need to clear your throat, do it gently
  • good posture is essential; keep your head erect rather than leaning forward
  • If you think you may be using some unhealthy voice behaviors, consult a speech therapist who specializes in voice therapy.

About the Author
Barbie Scott is a speech pathologist (certified in clinical competence by the American Speech and Hearing Association) who specializes in working with people with voice problems. She works one-on-one with clients and also conducts a seminar, When Your Voice Means Business—How to Have a Vital Voice for Your Voice-Dependent Work. Seminar information is available at http://www.voicemeansbiz.com.

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Last Updated: 10/21/00