Reducing voice strain during virtual meetings

This April 15, 2020 image shows Sharon Litwin on her laptop at her home in Teaneck, N.J. A single mother hunkering down at home with a teenage daughter, Litwin sees her friends, like most people these days, only virtually. Even so, theyve been a crucial lifeline. Sometimes I just need to have a conversation with adults, she says. And sometimes I just need to cry, which I really dont want to do in front of my daughter. Two of Litwins friends, especially, have become valued sounding boards in daily calls she coordinates with her walks outside. (Abby Hoberman via AP)
This April 15, 2020 image shows Sharon Litwin on her laptop at her home in Teaneck, N.J. A single mother hunkering down at home with a teenage daughter, Litwin sees her friends, like most people these days, only virtually. Even so, theyve been a crucial lifeline. Sometimes I just need to have a conversation with adults, she says. And sometimes I just need to cry, which I really dont want to do in front of my daughter. Two of Litwins friends, especially, have become valued sounding boards in daily calls she coordinates with her walks outside. (Abby Hoberman via AP)

Research suggests people who have been working from home during the pandemic have experienced an increase in voice-related problems.

You may not realize it, but constant virtual and phone meetings have the potential to strain your voice, even more than meeting in-person.

“What can happen then is over these sustained repetitive meetings where, perhaps, you’re talking a bit louder than what you appreciate, like any muscle system, with use, it starts to fatigue,” said Dr. Paul Bryson, a voice specialist with Cleveland Clinic.

Bryson said using your voice continuously, over an extended period of time, may cause muscle and soft tissue problems in the larynx, or voice box, leading to dryness, irritation and soreness.

He explained that a home environment doesn’t always have the best acoustics or sound amplification, which may force people to talk louder and put more effort into speaking.

Virtual meetings and phone conferences also make it difficult to pick up on social cues, causing people to repeat themselves, talk over others and raise their voice to be heard, which can strain the vocal cords and tract.

Bryson said using a headset with a good microphone can give you an idea of how loud you’re speaking and may allow you to adjust your range and reduce vocal strain.

Resting your voice and staying well hydrated will help too, just be sure to watch out for caffeinated drinks.

“You have to be careful with some things if they have caffeine. A lot of caffeine can be a dehydrator, which can then potentially dry up the secretions on the voice box that are naturally there for lubrication and to help vibration,” said Bryson.

If you’ve tried to remedy voice problems at home for 2-4 weeks without any improvement, Bryson recommends contacting your health care provider, or a voice specialist, to be evaluated.