Is working from home affecting our voice? An Irish study hopes to find out

6 May 2020540 Views

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A team of Irish researchers is seeking participants for an online survey to find out whether extended periods of working from home affects how we speak.

With millions now working from home around the world as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, scientists are asking whether our reduced face-to-face interaction with colleagues has changed a fundamental part of us: our voice.

A new study being carried out at Trinity College Dublin (TCD) is seeking participants for an online survey to collect more information about how people are working from home at this time.

Previous research has suggested that call-centre workers and others who spend a large part of their day talking through a device are prone to voice problems because of the way they speak. It’s believed that the most common issue is that people raise and tense their voice when they are not face-to-face.

The TCD research team said it has found anecdotal evidence to suggest some people working from home as a result of Covid-19 restrictions have reported symptoms of being hoarse, or having a dry or tight lump in the throat.

Potential long-term damage

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The survey is aimed at those in Ireland who have been working from home since restrictions were first introduced and companies were encouraged to let staff work remotely where possible. The study also aims to find out who is most at risk of health problems associated with the voice.

“Hoarse voice and an uncomfortable throat are caused by repeated inflammation from straining the voice,” said Dr Ciaran Kenny of TCD’s Department of Clinical Speech and Language Studies. “If left unchecked, this could lead to long-lasting changes in the voice box that may need surgery or therapy to address.

“If this survey finds that voice problems are more common than usual, employers might need to provide information or training to employees about how to work from home safely, even after the pandemic. It also means that educational institutions that provide distance learning might need to make sure that students are not put at risk.”

The survey is still seeking participants. Speaking to Siliconrepublic.com, Kenny said that findings so far suggest a significant number of those who took part in the survey have experienced vocal issues since they were advised to work from home. However, a more definitive answer will only come once the study is completed.

Colm Gorey is a senior journalist with Siliconrepublic.com

editorial@siliconrepublic.com