Question: I have just started a doctoral research at the Department of Human Communication Sciences at the University of Sheffield, England. My work involves the investigation into what happens to a speaker’s voice while using a voice recognition system. There are reports of users experiencing (serious) voice problems after prolonged use of dictation systems. This is bad news, because a lot of people who are using these systems do so, because they already have problems with RSI.
One of the aims of the research is to create a set of guidelines to help people prevent developing vocal strain injuries. The reason for writing you is that I would like to make contact with users in the UK of any voice recognition systems. I’m interested to get in touch with voice recognition users who already think they have a voice problem, but also with users who don’t have a voice problem. I would be very grateful if you could get me in touch with these people or if you could give me any information about other RSI-support groups in the UK.
Answer 1: I am aware that some people making use of voice recognition do have some problems with their voices, but they seem to be rare. There is a lot of good advice about looking after your voice when dictating, personally I think it is just as important to make sure you are comfortable and that you speak in a normal tone and volume and do take breaks. I find it quite interesting to note that Mr. Alexander (of the Alexander technique fame) started off his own exploration of “body use” following problems with his own voice when he tried to recite. Admittedly, he was not talking in discreet speech, but I am convinced there are some parallels.
Answer 2: Now I have never used a voice recognition program, but I have suffered from voice problems. My therapist was quite clear that the pressures generated from working in the very demanding post I hold coupled with the problems of living with a much loved, chronically sick wife, were stressing me unbearably and that the only way to deal with the problem was to palliate it while working directly to reduce the stressors as much as possible. This has been to some extent successful and I can now hold forth in song again without pain. I think we must really get to grips with the whole area of stress at work as this is probably one of the most important, if not the most important Occupational Health problem today.