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Voice Disorders in the Workplace: A Scoping Review

  • Laura Allen
    Correspondence
    Address correspondence and reprint requests to Laura Allen, Otolaryngology Head & Neck Surgery, Resident physician, Division of Otolaryngology – Head & Neck Surgery, Department of Surgery, University of British Columbia, 4th floor, Gordon and Leslie Diamond Health Care Center, 2775 Laurel Street, Vancouver, BC, Canada V5Z1M9.
    Affiliations
    Division of Otolaryngology – Department of Surgery, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
    Search for articles by this author
  • Amanda Hu
    Affiliations
    Division of Otolaryngology – Department of Surgery, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
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      Summary

      Objective

      Occupational voice users (OVU) are at risk for developing voice disorders (VD). Otolaryngologists need to advocate for workplace accommodations for these patients. The objective of this study was to assess the literature on VDs in the workplace and to describe how results may guide the Otolaryngologist.

      Data Sources

      EBSCO, PubMed, Google Scholar, UBC libraries, and SpringerLink databases.

      Review methods

      The Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-analysis extension for Scoping Reviews protocol was used to conduct a scoping review from inception to December 30, 2019. Oxford Levels of Evidence were used to assess the quality of included studies. Common themes and types of accommodations and barriers were explored. This study was registered with the Open Science Framework Open Source for Collaboration in Scientific Research (10.17605/OSF.IO/RYDVN).

      Results

      One hundred and ninety-three abstracts were screened; 32 studies met inclusion criteria. Oxford Levels of Evidence ranged from 3 to 5. Eight overarching themes were identified: prevalence of VDs among OVUs; identifying risk factors for VDs; raising awareness of VDs medico-legally, politically; the education and treatment of VDs, the importance of diagnosing VDs; measuring the impact of VDs on work productivity; identifying perceived barriers to integration into the workplace; and calculating the economic costs of VDs. VDs affect workplace productivity and have associated absenteeism, medical, and economic costs. Increased awareness and education on the risk factors for VD development can assist with prevention, early diagnosis, and treatment. Accommodations and barriers are discussed.

      Conclusion

      There is emerging literature on VDs in the workplace. A multitude of VDs exist with varying pathologies, associated barriers, and implications for functioning within the workplace. Otolaryngologists play a unique role in diagnosing voice disorders and defining and facilitating workplace accommodations.

      Key Words

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