OUT OF COMMITTEE: Voice | World Voice Day 2022: Lift Your Voice
Every year on April 16, otolaryngologist-head and neck surgeons and other voice health professionals worldwide join together to recognize World Voice Day. This year’s World Voice Day theme is “Lift Your Voice.”
Anne F. Hseu, MD, Voice Committee member
It’s easy to feel down by what is going on in the world around us, as we enter the third year of the pandemic. We touch our faces, wondering when we can safely remove our surgical masks and N95s. Parents sit on edge with each phone ring, wondering if it’s the call alerting them to pick up their kids to quarantine for days without childcare. We feel sadness about missing the events and celebrations, big and small, that make up the essential part of living life. In this moment, it has become more evident that self-care must be addressed before effectively caring for those around us.
This year’s World Voice Day theme is “Lift Your Voice.” The inspiration came from the famous African American hymn, “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” a poem written by James Weldon Johnson in 1900. “Lift Your Voice” has many meanings, some of which are obvious. Literally, lifting one’s voice requires focusing on vocal health. We remind patients to drink plenty of water, avoid smoking, and to rest the voice when ill. We talk about voice budgeting and paying attention to when one’s voice isn’t meeting its demands. Lifting one’s voice can also reflect the need for human beings to speak proudly of their heritage, beliefs, and traditions. Over the past few years, diverse voices and opinions have necessarily been lifted during this tumultuous time of civil and racial unrest.
To me, “Lift Your Voice” has a deeper and more self-empowering meaning: listening to one’s inner voice and then speaking up to achieve what one needs for oneself as an individual first. This inward-looking approach to personal health and well-being ultimately allows us to serve our community better as physicians, parents, friends, and partners. Healthcare workers have a tendency to put others before themselves, relishing in the caregiver role. It’s common to silence the inner voice, thinking that no one wants to hear what you have to say, particularly when times are tough and everyone’s nose is to the grindstone. Now, more than ever, is the time to speak up about what you need. What do you require to be well? Is it relaxation time? Connection with others? Being outdoors for a breath of fresh air? Even if it’s just for a few moments, we all need a moment to reflect and refresh.
In a hallway leading to one of our operating rooms, there is a quote haphazardly taped to the wall: “Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.” These words from the Dalai Lama remind us that even the smallest of gestures can make someone else’s day better. Although self-care is a priority and something we continuously work on, our outer self and interpersonal interactions simultaneously influence how others feel about themselves. A smile as you pass a colleague in the hallway is not just the firing of cranial nerve VII, it is a moment of saying to someone, “I see you. I acknowledge you. I appreciate that YOU are present.” Sometimes that’s all that is needed to brighten a day of fatigue, stress, and worry.
These days, the importance of one’s voice becomes ever more significant when your tone, intonation, and words are perceived but your emotive features remain hidden behind a mask. Assumptions are made based on how one’s voice sounds. We, as otolaryngologists, are in a unique position to help our patients. We focus on pathologies that allow individuals not only to sense and interact with the world but to uniquely express themselves. Having one’s voice is critical for all of us to be fully engaged. Part of our role as physicians is to prevent injury through education. Educate those around you to keep their voices healthy so that they can speak up for themselves and help and continue to lift those around them.