Computer Voice Recognition Users

by Barbie Scott, M.A., CCC

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. And conversely, if your voice isn't "in working order," you can't earn money.

If you are a speech recognition user who struggles with poor voice endurance, this if/then has become a harsh reality. You have a constantly scratchy and aching throat and 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; it's unhealthy voice behaviors--in the context of vocally demanding work--that cause vocal problems. That is, 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. But there are a few of them that speech recognition users tend to use: for example, habitually speaking in a pitch range which is a little too low (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; this causes tension in your neck and even in your voice box).

Besides the manner in which you use your voice, there are other significant factors which contribute to the health of your voice. These are voice hygiene issues. And they are more immediately understood than the voice behaviors.

In the form of advice, some of these voice hygiene concepts are:

  • 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; don't lean your neck forward - keep your head erect

If you think you may be using some unhealthy voice behaviors as mentioned above, consult a speech therapist who specializes in voice therapy.

Barbie Scott, MA, CCC is a speech pathologist (retired) who specialized in working with people with voice problems.