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HealthWatch: Technology Leading To More Voice Problems

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A man using two smartphones. (Indranil Mukherjee/Getty Images)

A man using two smartphones. (Indranil Mukherjee/Getty Images)

CBS SF Bay (con't)

Affordable Care Act Updates: CBSSanFrancisco.com/ACA

Health News & Information: CBSSanFrancisco.com/Health

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS 5) – Pop singer Adele’s voice problems are getting lots of attention, but vocal-cord issues are growing among non-singers as well — fueled by new technologies that have us all talking more.

Adele’s voice, of course, is back. Her recent vocal cord surgery was a success, and she won six Grammy awards to prove it.

But the doctor who performed Adele’s surgery said he is seeing serious voice trauma routinely in non-singers who use their voices a lot.

“Now people have cell phones, now they’re in constant communication” said Dr. Steven Zeitels, Director of the Center for Laryngeal Surgery and Voice Rehabilitation at Massachusetts General Hospital, who removed a polyp on Adele’s vocal cords. “It’s not just performers. It can happen to executives. It can happen to someone on Wall Street, teachers, all kinds of folks who have huge vocal responsibilities.”

Zeitels said he expects to see even more cases in the future. Technology leads to more communication in general, explained Zeitels, “which is actually putting stress on, and causing trauma to, our vocal cords.”

And it isn’t just mobile telephones. The spread of voice recognition platforms has people giving more and more input by voice, rather than keystroke, and our voice boxes simply were not designed to handle all the high-tech talking.

“Today, most people’s vocal down time is when they are manually inputting on a portable device or on a keyboard on a computer,” said Zeitels. “(As) voice recognition platforms replace manual inputting with keyboards and hand-held devices, voice trauma will increase significantly.”

Zeitels also noted that technology in general has accelerated our productivity letting us do more work, faster than ever.

“The increased work product results in more verbal meetings and phone calls regardless of what percentage of communications are electronic,” explained Zeitels.

More meetings mean more talking. Add cell phones and smart devices and that’s the “sound” of trouble.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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