CHICAGO -- Experts at UChicago and UChicago Medicine are available to discuss the different ways video conferencing can be adversely affecting physical and mental health, as well as creating what is currently known as “Zoom fatigue.” 

Laryngeal surgeon Brandon Baird, MD, director of UChicago Medicine’s Voice Center, says patients with functional voice problems are struggling with voice strain caused by spending more time speaking louder than they normally would on video calls, while wearing masks, or when standing six feet apart. 

For patients with pre-existing voice problems, this added vocal tension (also referred to as muscle tension dysphonia) in the larynx can cause a hoarse voice, and occasionally even throat pain, or other issues. It can be especially challenging for certain professions that require long days of talking online, such as teachers, or in professions that require people to speak while wearing thicker N95 masks.

Baird is available to talk about this trend and offer people some tips on how to protect their voices and larynxes during the pandemic.

Chicago Booth behavioral scientist Nicholas Epley says screen interactions require focused, deliberate and eventually exhausting amounts of attention. Tech glitches create delays, altered speech and endless requests to unmute yourself, turning the otherwise effortless dance of conversation into hard work. This is why “Zoom fatigue” is a term we’ve all learned in 2020.

Epley says simply picking up the phone and talking when possible can make you wiser and increase your well-being. He can discuss his research which indicates that a person’s voice—its intonation, pace and volume—is most important for accurately understanding and connecting with others, even more important than visual cues from a face-to-face conversation. 

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