The Voice as a Work Instrument

BRITO, Marly Santoro



In this paper, the author addresses professional dysphonia arising from different causes and worsened by the intercurrence of environmental aggressions. It also addresses issues that should be worked so the rate of laryngeal diseases among these professionals, whose tool is their voice, is decreased by the awareness of their dependence on the voice.

Professional Voice

More and more, nowadays, the professional must convey credibility, empathy, firmness and concision in his spoken discourse. He needs to have skills and abilities that give him a competitive advantage in the labor market. He must be communicative, having a good capacity of synthesis, with rational and logical thinking. One way these skills and abilities are demonstrated, is through correct use of voice. How the professional expresses himself orally, his confidence when he answers questions and his ability to argue and counter-argue, reinforce his performance in the labor market. This applies to any situation, including speeches, presentations and especially in remote communications, such as conference calls or over the phone.

Vocal Stress

Numerous factors can trigger occupational stress:
  • Competitiveness
  • Financial Difficulties
  • Lack of self-confidence
  • The constant need for improvement and qualification
  • Having to meet different work and family demands
  • Anxiety of dealing with certain clients, students or other professionals
When it comes to stress, one thinks of its characteristics being:
  • Mood Changes
  • Decreased Creativity
  • Fatigue
  • Memory Loss
  • Insomnia and Irritability
  • Skin manifestations and Alopecia (hair loss)

Little is said about the vocal changes, which are not yet part of the mapping of stress.

However, stress can lead to dysphonia or hoarseness; decreased vocal intensity and even total aphonia; and lack of fluency in speech which can lead to less involvement with work and an unwillingness to take on more challenging tasks.

Vocal stress is found in all people who use their voice as a tool of their work. We can list among them the teacher, with extensive working hours, often moving to different locations without adequate food. The teacher uses his voice intensively and often lacks the support to minimize the consequences, such as adequate water supply near the classroom, or breaks to restructure and rest his mind and, especially, his voice.

Possessing emotional control involves having mastery over your voice, which is the portrait of your mood. In addition to caring for the preservation of his vocal health, it is very important that the teacher is aware of the power of his voice in his relationship with the student, and the credibility it inspires in sharing his knowledge.

The teacher’s requirement to divide his attention during group work and classroom discussions, motivate students, illustrate lessons so they are more entertaining, use computer resources, continually evaluate his skills, take part in research groups, and stay up to date with the world’s social and economic situation, can easily lead to occupational stress.

Other professionals are also susceptible to vocal stress. In the case of the lawyer, the tension of his first court case, facing the judge, having to demonstrate oral and discursive fluency (even when he is not confident) and having to persuade the jury, all cause anxiety. Likewise, it is difficult for the recently vested judge to render a judgment when lawyers for the defense and prosecution are famous and mythicized by him.

In the case of the actor,

after months of stress contributing to the production and searching for sponsorship to stage the play, when it’s time to perform, he often has to overcome panic to go on stage and face an audience; he is then anxious about his voice, body expression, the performance and criticism. This panic is reflected in his voice, which becomes breathless, shaky or weak.

For the journalist,

especially in television, any mistake is live. For this reason, early in his career and often during the course of it, the journalist suffers from a fear of losing or compromising his voice, and of public and professional criticism. And so, in just a few examples of professions, we see several examples of factors that can lead to vocal stress.
Making a speech or speaking at a conference can be a stressful and arduous task. The speech becomes more worrying when the audience is composed of allied professionals or people with the same background, usually because of their shared knowledge on the subject. This is an inhibiting stress factor for many speakers.

Several exercises reduce this stress and maintain vocal health. These include:


    Without backing the tongue into the buccal cavity. This is the best way to relax and help regain control of the voice.

    It is essential for the body and especially for vocal health, to drink eight to ten glasses of liquid a day.
Depending on the audience, making a speech or conference may become an arduous, stressful task. When the audience is composed of professionals with the same background, usually the speech becomes more worrying because of the knowledge of the audience on the subject. This is an inhibiting and stress factor for various speakers. Because there is aphonia or hoarseness deriving from the silence under tension. One must be careful not to tighten the neck and shoulders, and should avoid leaving the tongue backed to the bottom of the throat. This is very important because the tongue shrunk in the buccal cavity causes pressure on the larynx, which can compromise the voice. To overcome a fear of public speaking, these and other techniques must be practiced until they are naturally incorporated into the speech act.

Vocal Coach

The Vocal Coach aims to improve the speaker’s ability to present to an audience or communicate with others. Vocal coaching is suitable for groups who want to enhance their corporate image by improving oral communication in general. It is also beneficial as one-to-one coaching, for professionals who want customized training for a specific need.

Vocal coaching aims to improve the trinomial: voice - image - communication. It provides tools to control the voice when under stress (such as for meetings or speeches), so appropriate modulation and inflection are used. Persuasion, through using the voice, answering questions and arguing with confidence, requires technique and training by the highly successful vocal coach.

Enhancement of the corporate image requires oral expressiveness and an audience-appropriate vocabulary. It also demands the improvement of non-oral communication through factors such as correct mental attitude, a broad and communicative look , appropriate gestures and positive body language. Vices of language, barely pronounced words, the omission of word endings and ‘s’s, vocal problems such as a monotone, husky, shy, aggressive, or child-like voice and the vocal attitude that creates excessive intimacy or distance, all interfere with the communication process and can leave the audience resistant to the speech.

The professional needs to master these problems whenever he speaks in public or uses his voice for work; that is, whenever two or more people gather for a purpose, either in person, online or via teleconferences. The main aim of a basic speech is to communicate information and lead the audience to consider the proposal. A more dynamic speech may require facilitating an in-depth understanding of the message. In this case, one must become adept at synthesis. In any speech, it is important to maintain a good pace of delivery: the audience needs time to listen, decode, apprehend, comprehend, understand, interpret and react. This is essential for competitive intelligence.

Excessively long and repetitive speeches that do not achieve the main goal compromise the acceptance of the message and render the listener impatient. The voice professional could highlight and enhance key ideas, phrases or words, giving them vocal imagery. This makes his speech less tiring and highlights the ideas or knowledge being communcated. Appearance is also important, as well as mastering physiognomic expression. Words, attitude and expression need to work in unison. The voice changes immediately when one feels a lack of confidence, stressed, anxious and physically or mentally fatigued. The professional who relies on his voice to communicate, must learn to control these signals and that requires the practice of appropriate techniques.

Understand that the first symptom of emotional distress occurs in the respiratory rhythm and results in breathlessness or breathless speech. The trained voice professional can control this through slow and deep inhalation, and by directing the exhalation, which make his voice stronger and firmer.
Key elements of good professional performance are:
  • Pleasant tone of voice
  • Clear and complete pronunciation of all words, syllables and letters
  • The correct use of language by observing proper grammar and avoiding verbal cacophony[RW1] , and everyday terms, such as slang
  • Body language also influences the teacher – student and entrepreneur – client interactions. A willing and interested attitude should be maintained.


The index of vocal problems detected by otolaryngologists through videolaryngostroboscopy (filming and examining the vocal folds during phonation), is significant. Nodules (calluses on the vocal cords), polyps, cysts, glottal cleft, hyperemia, inspissation, and edema, are common in professionals who use their voices without due care and cause time off work. Usually they are discovered after complaints of persistent hoarseness, vocal fatigue, pain or a burning sensation in the throat, the voice failing, difficulty in swallowing, abrupt voice changes, an itch in the throat and speaking for long periods.

Almost all diseases regress with appropriate pathological speech-language exercises or microsurgery. Many people complain about the presence of mucus. This is caused by an allergy to mold, dust, chalk dust, excessive ingestion of dairy and chocolate, and as a defense mechanism to temperature changes. Other organic factors that can compromise the voice are the presence of gastroesophageal reflux, gastritis and heartburn.

Resonant disturbances are reflected through a nasally, disguised voice, that is, dull voice . Specific exercises develop the voice and direct it correctly for the body’s resonance boxes, which are responsible for amplification and projection.

The professional who relies on his voice must recognise that it is his tool and treat it as such.
He can do this through:

  • Vocal warm-up exercises
  • Adequate ingestion of liquids
  • Correct vocal projection in relation to the space. This is driven by the diaphragm and by relaxing the neck
  • Phono breathing coordination
  • Taking air during breaks
  • Avoiding speaking with residual air
  • Clear pronunciation, which also allows prompt understanding of the message
  • Observing vocal changes and, when necessary, applying a preventive, clinical approach minimizes damage to the professional’s voice

BRITO, Marly Santoro. All Rights Reserved.