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My voice already hurts. What should I do?
The Voice Care Network advises that you should see a GP if you do not have an infection but your voice becomes hoarse, you lose your voice, it seems weak or tired, or you have a tickly cough that will not go away and it continues for three weeks. If it continues for six weeks, speech and language therapists suggest that you seek specialist advice. Here are a number of steps you can take:
- Explain to your GP what job you do, how much you use your voice, and whether you are under pressure at work. Your GP can issue you with a 'fit note' to indicate what changes should be made at work to enable you to return to work safely. For more information, see Dealing with Doctors.
- Inform your line manager and record your condition in the accident book, especially if you need to take time off work. Whatever your job, you are likely to need at least a short break involving different duties.
- Make an appointment to see your work's occupational health department if there is one.
- Contact your safety rep if you have one. Your union rep can support you in meetings with management about possible adjustments to your work routines.
- Find out whether your employer has a voice care policy.
You may be able to claim compensation if you develop voice strain. There has been at least one case of voice loss by a teacher qualifying for Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit (IIDB). However, voice loss is not included in the list of occupational diseases triggering this benefit. There is guidance on claiming this benefit on the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) website.
In 2010, Joyce Walters, an English teacher employed by Hillingdon Council, was reported to have reached an out-of-court settlement of £156,000 after suffering permanent damage to her vocal cords from being forced to raise her voice over noise outside her classroom.