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As more people engage in online meetings amidst work from home arrangements, some of us may experience vocal fatigue and even a risk of developing voice disorders from spending long hours communicating over electronic devices.

Factors such as the unnatural online environment, background noise, and subpar devices can affect the quality in which your voice is communicated virtually — causing people to overcompensate when speaking.

According to Ms Laura Chua, principal speech therapist at SKH, vocal fatigue symptoms may affect a person's ability to cope with daily speaking situations such as online communicating and presenting.

"Those who have heavy speaking requirements at work, such as project managers and teachers, may find themselves putting more strain on their voices during virtual presentations and meetings, making them more vulnerable to vocal fatigue," elaborates Ms Chua.

Ms Chua also explains that a voice disorder refers to a problem with the quality (clarity), pitch and volume of the voice, and vocal fatigue can be a resulting symptom of a voice disorder or may increase the risk of developing it.

If your symptoms persist (or worsen) for more than a few weeks, Ms Chua advises consulting an ear, nose and throat (ENT) doctor–ideally one who specialises in voice—for an assessment. The ENT doctor may even refer you to a speech therapist for further treatment.

Tips to ease vocal fatigue:

  • Keep the computer at eye level which will promote a good posture for speaking.
  • Give your voice a rest — even a brief five to ten-minute rest can help you recover from vocal fatigue.
  • Use headphones with a built-in microphone and conduct meetings in a quiet space.
  • Avoid harsh vocal behaviours such as throat clearing and loud talking. Stay hydrated throughout the day.