Voice Problems Among Call Center Agents


What do singers, lawyers, teachers, preachers, and call center agents have in common? All of them are professional voice users. This means that their voice is very important for them to earn a living. Being frequent voice users, however, also expose them to a greater chance of vocal abuse. With too much misuse and abuse behaviors, one’s voice may deteriorate and, eventually, he or she may even lose it. For those who use their voice professionally, losing their voice would mean losing their jobs as well. It is, therefore, important for them to take care of their voice by practicing vocal hygiene techniques to prevent from having vocal problems. For those who already have a vocal pathology, they can still undergo voice therapy for possible rehabilitation.

A lot of the activities or situations that call center agents are frequently involved in are detrimental for their voice. They continuously talk for five hours or more. Continuous voice use for two hours is the most length of time allowable. Going beyond that period of time will already cause a person’s vocal mechanism to feel strained and tensed. Call center offices are usually cold environments. Just like any muscle, a person’s vocal folds become tense in low temperature. The coldness can also cause the throat to feel dry. Another harmful habit of call center agents is that they often drink coffee, possibly to avoid feeling sleepy. Coffee, however, causes a person’s throat to feel dry and can also give a feeling of something lodged in the throat. This feeling leads to a person’s frequent throat-clearing which is also a vocal abuse behavior. Another situation they usually experience is lack of having enough rest and sleep. As a person’s whole body feels fatigued or tired, so does his or her vocal mechanism. The functioning of the larynx is, thus, compromised in this condition and makes it prone to overuse. Finally, call center agents experience a lot of stress from some of their clients. The stress, compounded with vocal overuse, will increase the level of strain and tension within the vocal mechanism. A person in this situation will be forced to exert more effort for vocal production which is not supposed to be done.

Because of the strain, tension, over-usage, and increased friction due to forced talking, it can cause the formation of scarring and nodules within the vocal folds. Vocal scarring and vocal nodules are among the most common vocal pathologies that professional voice users encounter. Because of the scarring and nodules, the voice can become hoarse and harsh-sounding. Pain in the throat area can also be felt. Instance of voice loss or aphonia will also be evident. Sometimes, pitch breaks also occur together with a general change in pitch. With a nodule in the vocal folds, total closure of the vocal folds during adduction may not be achieved resulting to an excess of air escaping. This will cause, then, cause the voice to sound breathy and compromise the loudness in vocal production.

To avoid reaching a situation where the voice has severely deteriorated, it is important for professional voice users to lessen or totally eliminate their vocal abuse and misuse behaviors. This means taking time to rest the vocal mechanism at least every 30 minutes. When in a cold environment, it will help to cover the throat or neck area with a muffler or a scarf. Frequently lubricate the throat area by drinking water to prevent it from straining because of dryness. Also avoid drinking coffee or smoking which will just increase the dryness of the throat. If possible, get enough rest after working. Performing relaxation techniques such as simultaneous contraction and release of the different muscles of the body, including those in the throat area, will also help. It is important to learn diaphragmatic breathing to lessen the tension in the neck area brought about by clavicular breathing. Also learn to decrease the feeling of stressfulness through stress management and relaxation. Constant practice of these behaviors will help any professional users, especially call center agents, avoid posing danger to their vocal mechanism. Otherwise, it will be an easy road for any person toward having vocal pathologies.

Fortunately, vocal problems such as abrasion or scarring and nodules can still be remediated with voice therapy. People who provide these services are called speech therapists or pathologists. Aside from managing voice problems, they also deal with speech and language problems as well as swallowing problems among young and old clients. In order to begin receiving voice therapy services, a person should initially obtain a referral from a doctor, preferably an otorhinolaryngologist. After being referred, a person with voice problem will be evaluated to determine the main reason or reasons causing his or her problem. Only after the evaluation will the therapy can then be started. During and after sessions, utmost cooperation from clients is required by therapists to make the voice management successful. Without a client’s cooperation as well as compliance to instructions, therapy sessions and therapy techniques provided will just be wasted. In the end, total rehabilitation actually depends on a person’s determination to be well.