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Year : 2013  |  Volume : 3  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 1-2

Occupational hazards of the emerging voice professions

Editor-in-Chief, Journal of Laryngology and Voice,Department of ENT - Head Neck Surgery,Base Hospital Delhi Cantt, New Delhi, India

Date of Web Publication24-Sep-2013

Correspondence Address:
Rakesh Datta
Professor, Department of ENT - Head Neck Surgery, Army College of Medical Sciences, Base Hospital Delhi Cantt, New Delhi - 110 010
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/2230-9748.118685

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How to cite this article:
Datta R. Occupational hazards of the emerging voice professions. J Laryngol Voice 2013;3:1-2

How to cite this URL:
Datta R. Occupational hazards of the emerging voice professions. J Laryngol Voice [serial online] 2013 [cited 2021 Oct 21];3:1-2. Available from: https://www.laryngologyandvoice.org/text.asp?2013/3/1/1/118685

Undoubtedly, voice is an extremely important mode of communication across the world. Any impairment in the normal mechanism of voice generation can cause a significant disability to an individual in performing routine and important activities, with a resultant handicap. Unfortunately, handicap arising as a result of dysphonia is much underemphasized and grossly underrepresented as compared to visual and, for that matter, hearing handicap. With more and more people taking up professions that require a prolonged usage of a normal voice, both the propensity and importance of this handicap are bound to leap. Thus, it is high time for us as laryngologists to identify the high-risk populations/professions, in order to ascertain the true burden of this handicap.

One such "at-risk" professions that has come up in the service sector in the past two decades across the world is the voice-based business process outsourcing industry, commonly referred to as "call centers." In fact, a few studies originating in the western countries have reported a higher relative risk of developing health-related problems, including organic voice lesions, in call center operators (CCOs). [1],[2] Younger age of these professionals coupled with excessive stress and attending continuously to calls with few breaks predisposes to vocal problems. India is one of the hubs for call centers across the world, with a resultant large population at risk for dysphonia. Unfortunately, there have been no reports from this part of the world that address this significant profession-related vocal problem.

However, recently, a relevant study has been carried out and reported by Usha Devdas and Rajashekhar. [3] The study was aimed at assessing the prevalence and impact of voice problems in CCOs working in various call centers in one of the Indian cities, using self-reported questionnaires. The sample size in this cross-sectional study was 1093, and the parameters assessed included demographic data, vocal attrition symptoms, frequency and severity of symptoms, and the impact of these symptoms on their emotion, social interaction, job performance, and absenteeism. The data were collected using the "voice survey" questionnaire developed by Jones et al. [1]

The prevalence of voice problems, as reported in the study, was 59% over their professional career and 27% at the time of study. There were no significant gender differences, which is in contrast with some studies from the western literature which reported a significantly higher prevalence of these problems in females. As much as 10% of the CCOs reported the vocal symptoms as a major source of frustration to them and the symptoms affected their social interaction in as much as 16%. These symptoms affected job performance in 45% of the CCOs, with a significant gender difference with female preponderance. These observations matched with reports from the western literature. Assessing the social disability needs specialized indices, and perhaps, incorporation of more comprehensive social indices customised to local needs (e.g. Hindi Voice Handicap Index [4] ) in similar studies would provide a greater insight into the social impact and the handicap caused by these voice problems.

Only 13% of the CCOs suffering from voice symptoms consulted a physician for their problem and only 3% consulted a speech language pathologist. This reflects the ignorance and lack of ability of the CCOs and their employers in realizing voice problems as work-related risks. Only 14% of the CCOs had received any instructions on care of their voice. However, a vast majority of them showed an interest in receiving voice care instructions, highlighting the fact that these professionals are receptive toward education regarding voice problems associated with their profession.

To reemphasize, dysphonia is an underrecognized entity as a handicap, and with the growth of professions involving excessive use of voice, it is emerging as an important occupational hazard. Since the relevant literature on this occupational hazard from this part of the world is extremely scarce, the true nature and extent of this problem is extremely difficult to identify. Non-native English-speaking populations are a special subset, since they need to undergo accent training to modify their voices as part of their professional duties. This is likely to place further stress on the already overworked vocal folds. Hence, generating data in these populations is important and calls for carrying out more such studies in order to estimate the true burden of this handicap. Preventive strategies in terms of educating the CCOs regarding voice care instructions, professional help by physicians/speech language pathologists, and guidance toward transition to less vocally demanding jobs can only be implemented once this professional hazard is well characterized. On a broader perspective, these strategies should also incorporate educating the employers and organizations toward this hazard and its impact on organizational productivity. This disability will, however, only get emphasized and the suffering of our clientele will be addressed if we, health care professionals, are aware of the magnitude and range of these problems.

   References Top

1.Jones K, Sigmon J, Hock L, Nelson E, Sullivan M, Ogren F. Prevalence and risk factors for voice problems among telemarketers. Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg 2002;128:571-7.  Back to cited text no. 1
2.Lehto L, Rantala L, Vilkman E, Alku P, Backstrom T. Experiences of a short vocal training course for call-centre customer service advisors. Folia Phoniatr Logop 2003;55:163-76.  Back to cited text no. 2
3.Devdas U, Rajashekhar B. The prevalence and impact of voice problems in call centre operators. J Laryngol Voice 2013;3:3-9.  Back to cited text no. 3
4.Datta R, Sethi A, Singh S, Nilakantan A. Venkatesh MD. Translation and Validation of the Voice Handicap Index in Hindi. J Laryngol Voice 2011;1:12-17.  Back to cited text no. 4
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