What impact are larger class sizes having on teachers?

students in classroom

Did you know teachers have a high incidence of voice problems? A study found that while teachers constitute only 2 percent of the working population, they make up 16 percent of hospital voice clinic populations diagnosed with a voice disorder. [1] In fact, 20 percent of the teacher population analyzed in the study reported missing work as a result of a voice problem. [1]

As an on-site disability consultant, I’ve worked with a number of teachers and in the last five years I’ve seen an increase in voice-related disabilities. The good news is there is a tool out there that can help teachers deal with this problem. It’s just that many people don’t know it exists.

My experiences tell me class size may have something to do with it. The louder the ambient noise in a classroom, the more frequently a teacher must raise his or her voice to be heard. The National Education Association indicates the optimal class size is 15 students. Additionally, research shows that learning increases as class size is reduced, especially in the early grades. [2]

We’ve all heard the facts and the reality is that overcrowding of classrooms is impacting not only our children but also our teachers. And even though the size of a classroom is out of our control we can make changes to improve the situation for our teachers.

More and more teachers are using voice amplification while in the classroom.

With a voice amplification device a teacher’s voice is clearly and loudly amplified so even the students sitting in the back of the class can hear without the teacher straining his or her voice.

Amplification options such as Lightspeed Technologies’ REDCAT device require no installation. The teacher wears the wireless microphone around the neck and a speaker is placed in the classroom.

Options like this are perfect for teachers with weak voices, such as esophageal speakers, people with partially paralyzed vocal cords, throat nodules or any condition limiting chest muscle strength or lung capacity that cuts voice volume or makes speaking tiring.

The teachers I have worked with feel these lightweight, portable and economic address systems have been a boon, especially since they are saving their voice. They also feel using the system is less taxing for them physically.

In addition to using a voice amplification system, here are a few other ways teachers can mitigate voice problems in the classroom:

  • Analyze schedules and vocal demands to minimize voice strain.
  • Reduce common irritants, such as smoking or yelling.
  • Schedule a student teacher in the classroom for assistance.
  • Drink plenty of fluids throughout the work day.


[1] Smith E., Gray S., Dove H., Kirchner L. and Heras H. Frequency and effects of teachers’ voice problems. Journal of Voice 1997; 11: 81-87.

[2] National Education Association http://www.nea.org/home/13120.htm

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