A new study published in Laryngoscope has tackled the issue of whether healthcare workers who have been caring for patients in high-risk units during the COVID-19 outbreak are at increased risk for voice disorders. This cross-sectional study involved a questionnaire that more than 220 healthcare workers answered. The questionnaire included information on demographics, clinical work, personal protective equipment (PPE) usage, medical history, and vocal symptoms. The Spanish validated Voice Handicap Index VHI-10 questionnaire was also employed.
Nearly 1 out of every 3 healthcare workers who responded to the survey reported that they struggled with their voice over the previous month. Results from the Spanish validated Voice Handicap Index VHI-10 questionnaire were abnormal for more than 26% of the respondents.
Investigations into what could cause voice disorders in these healthcare workers showed that several factors appeared to increase risk. For instance, working more hours, wearing masks more frequently, combining the use of surgical and self-filtering masks, and working in intensive care units or intermediate units were all associated with greater risk for voice disorders.
While the data on voice disorders related to policies surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic are still emerging, these new results point to the possibility that physicians, hospitalists, and other healthcare workers are enduring higher rates of voice disorders due to the safety measures in place to protect themselves and others from the spread of the virus. More research should help to determine the specific factors that increase the risk for voice disorders and if there are reasonable ways to prevent these types of disorders while maintaining critical safety protocols in healthcare settings.
Heider, C.A. (2020). Prevalence of voice disorders in healthcare workers in the universal masking COVID-19 era. Laryngoscope, doi: 10.1002/lary.29172.