Publications by authors named "Eric J Hunter"

68 Publications

Quantifying Vocal Repertoire Tessituras Through Real-Time Measures.

J Voice 2021 Jul 25. Epub 2021 Jul 25.

Utah Center for Vocology, University of Utah, 240 S. 1500 E., Room 206, Salt Lake City, UT 84112.

Introduction: Voice teachers use anecdotal evidence and experience in determining the appropriateness of repertoire for each student's development. Tessitura is important in that determination, but until recently a straightforward, repeatable, and quantifiable method for determining tessitura has not existed. However, technology exists to provide the means to estimate the tessituras of standard vocal repertoire by measuring sung pitch (fundamental frequency) and vocal dose (amount of phonation) in real-time performance.

Purpose: The purpose of this study was to examine the combined use of tessituragrams, Voice Range Profiles (VRPs), a singer's self-perception of a performance, and expert listeners perception of a performance towards the goal of a more systematic way of selecting appropriate voice repertoire for singers. The following research questions guided this investigation: 1) How do Performance Range Profiles (PRPs, performance-based tessituragrams computed from neck skin surface vibration during singing), compare to score-based tessituragrams of the same selection in the same key? 2) How do PRPs of the same vocal score compare when performed in three different keys? 3) How do singer VRPs compare with PRPs of three performances of a score, each sung in a different key? and 4) How do singer and expert panel perceptions of the selection's "fit" in three different keys compare with the alignment of each singer's VRP to their PRPs? Four female singers and five expert voice pedagogues were enlisted to address these questions.

Results: The distribution (histogram) of the score-based tessituragram closely matched the distribution of performance-based tessituragrams (PRP), suggesting that score-based tessituragrams have promise in accurately reflecting the performance-based tessitura of a musical vocal work. Acquired data revealed relationships of practical importance between score-derived tessituragrams, PRPs, acquired VRPs, and singer perceptions of ease in singing. These data suggest that score-based tessituragrams aligned with singer VRPs show promise in repertoire selection. However, there was only a minor relationship between expert panel perceptions of ease in singing and the acquired PRPs or singer perceptions of ease. Creation of a score-based tessituragram database could be combined with singer VRPs to assist in appropriate repertoire selection.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jvoice.2021.06.019DOI Listing
July 2021

Bilingualism and Voice Production. Differences Between Bilingual Latin-American Spanish- English Female Speakers and Monolingual Spanish Female Speakers During Spanish Productions.

J Voice 2021 Jun 10. Epub 2021 Jun 10.

Department of Communicative Sciences and Disorders, Michigan State University, Michigan.

Background: Speaking a second language influences jitter and shimmer when comparing monolingual English speakers with bilingual English-Spanish speakers. However, there is little information about differences on voice acoustic parameters when comparing monolingual Spanish speakers with bilingual Spanish-English speakers during their productions in Spanish.

Aim: Determine differences in five voice acoustic parameters commonly used in voice assessments (fundamental frequency, jitter, shimmer, Harmonics-to-Noise Ratio and Cepstral Peak Prominence Smoothed) which may be influenced by bilingualism.

Methods: Exploratory cross-sectional study with two groups of female participants: monolingual Spanish speakers (n = 17), and bilingual Spanish-English speakers (n = 11). Participants filled out a questionnaire and recorded two voice samples (sustained vowel /a/ and reading). For this study, all the participants reported that their native language was Spanish.

Results: Being a female bilingual speaker had a significant effect on Shimmer (%) with a Beta = -0.7. Similar tendency was found on harmonics-to-noise ratio (B = 0.2) and cepstral peak prominence smoothed (B = 0.2).

Conclusions: Our results indicate that being a native Spanish female speaker, speaking English as a second language, has significant small effects on voice acoustic parameters, such as shimmer, harmonics-to-noise ratio and cepstral peak prominence smoothed, during their productions in Spanish. This information is of interest for assessment and intervention plans of bilingual speakers at clinical and work-related settings.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jvoice.2021.04.026DOI Listing
June 2021

Relationship Between Tasked Vocal Effort Levels and Measures of Vocal Intensity.

J Speech Lang Hear Res 2021 06 31;64(6):1829-1840. Epub 2021 May 31.

School of Communication Sciences and Disorders, The University of Memphis, TN.

Purpose Patients with voice problems commonly report increased vocal effort, regardless of the underlying pathophysiology. Previous studies investigating vocal effort and voice production have used a range of methods to quantify vocal effort. The goals of the current study were to use the Borg CR100 effort scale to (a) demonstrate the relation between vocal intensity or vocal level (dB) and tasked vocal effort goals and (b) investigate the repeated measure reliability of vocal level at tasked effort level goals. Method Three types of speech (automatic, read, and structured spontaneous) were elicited at four vocal effort level goals on the Borg CR100 scale (2, 13, 25, and 50) from 20 participants (10 females and 10 males). Results Participants' vocal level reliably changed approximately 5 dB between the elicited effort level goals; this difference was statistically significant and repeatable. Biological females produced a voice with consistently less intensity for a vocal effort level goal compared to biological males. Conclusions The results indicate the utility of the Borg CR100 in tracking effort in voice production that is repeatable with respect to vocal level (dB). Future research will investigate other metrics of voice production with the goal of understanding the mechanisms underlying vocal effort and the external environmental influences on the perception of vocal effort.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1044/2021_JSLHR-20-00465DOI Listing
June 2021

Resonance Effects and the Vocalization of Speech.

Perspect ASHA Spec Interest Groups 2019 Dec 5;4(6):1637-1643. Epub 2019 Dec 5.

Department of Communicative Sciences and Disorders, Michigan State University, East Lansing MI 48824.

Studies of the respiratory and laryngeal actions required for phonation are central to our understanding of both voice and voice disorders. The purpose of the present article is to highlight complementary insights about voice that have come from the study of vocal tract resonance effects.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1044/2019_pers-19-00052DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7591156PMC
December 2019

The Effect of Upper Airway Ailments on Teachers' Experience of Vocal Fatigue.

J Voice 2020 Jul 2. Epub 2020 Jul 2.

Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan.

Background: Teachers have been found to have a higher than normal risk to develop voice disorders. One common symptom of voice problems among teachers is the report and occurrence of vocal fatigue, often associated with different individual, physical, environmental, and professional factors.

Aim: The aim of this study was to provide insight into the potential effect of sinus infections, laryngitis, colds, seasonal allergies, and reflux on reported vocal fatigue, as quantified by the Vocal Fatigue Index (VFI).

Method: An exploratory cross-sectional design was implemented via an online survey sent by email to teachers of kindergarten through 12th-grade in 31 states throughout the USA.

Result: The main result of this study was that teachers with self-reported reflux and seasonal allergies had statistically significant higher scores on VFI Factor 1 (performance), VFI Factor 2 (pain), and VFI Factor 3 (recovery) when compared to those without self-reported reflux and seasonal allergies.

Conclusions: It may be likely that an individuals' change in reported vocal fatigue over time may be also associated with health-related factors, such as reflux and seasonal allergies rather than just changes in voice production. These associated factors should be considered and potentially controlled for in future research and clinical practice surrounding teachers' experience of vocal fatigue.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jvoice.2020.05.024DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7775886PMC
July 2020

Toward a Consensus Description of Vocal Effort, Vocal Load, Vocal Loading, and Vocal Fatigue.

J Speech Lang Hear Res 2020 02 19;63(2):509-532. Epub 2020 Feb 19.

Department of Logopedics, Phoniatrics and Audiology, Lund University, Sweden.

Purpose The purpose of this document is threefold: (a) review the uses of the terms "vocal fatigue," "vocal effort," "vocal load," and "vocal loading" (as found in the literature) in order to track the occurrence and the related evolution of research; (b) present a "linguistically modeled" definition of the same from the review of literature on the terms; and (c) propose conceptualized definitions of the concepts. Method A comprehensive literature search was conducted using PubMed/MEDLINE, Embase, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, and Scientific Electronic Library Online. Four terms ("vocal fatigue," "vocal effort," "vocal load," and "vocal loading"), as well as possible variants, were included in the search, and their usages were compiled into conceptual definitions. Finally, a focus group of eight experts in the field (current authors) worked together to make conceptual connections and proposed consensus definitions. Results The occurrence and frequency of "vocal load," "vocal loading," "vocal effort," and "vocal fatigue" in the literature are presented, and summary definitions are developed. The results indicate that these terms appear to be often interchanged with blurred distinctions. Therefore, the focus group proposes the use of two new terms, "vocal demand" and "vocal demand response," in place of the terms "vocal load" and "vocal loading." We also propose standardized definitions for all four concepts. Conclusion Through a comprehensive literature search, the terms "vocal fatigue," "vocal effort," "vocal load," and "vocal loading" were explored, new terms were proposed, and standardized definitions were presented. Future work should refine these proposed definitions as research continues to address vocal health concerns.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1044/2019_JSLHR-19-00057DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7210446PMC
February 2020

Do Voice Acoustic Parameters Differ Between Bilingual English-Spanish Speakers and Monolingual English Speakers During English Productions?

J Voice 2021 Mar 14;35(2):194-202. Epub 2019 Sep 14.

Department of Communicative Sciences & Disorders, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan.

Background: In addition to language differences in fundamental frequency between bilinguals and monolinguals, studies have also included other acoustic parameters to analyze differences in voice production associated with the language spoken.

Aim: To identify differences in voice acoustic parameters during English productions between monolingual and bilingual English speakers.

Method: Exploratory cross-sectional study with two groups of subjects: monolingual English speakers (n = 40), and bilingual English-Spanish speakers (n = 13). Participants filled out a questionnaire and recorded one reading in English (second sentence of Rainbow passage "The rainbow is a division of white light into many beautiful colors") under a "virtual-simulated" acoustic condition of No Noise and Medium Reverberation Time (0.8 seconds).

Result: Analysis by gender shows that monolingual speakers had higher fundamental frequency mode, and lower standard deviation of fundamental frequency compared to bilingual English-Spanish speakers. Bilingual male speakers had higher jitter and harmonics-to-noise ratio than monolingual speakers. On the contrary, female bilingual speakers had lower jitter and shimmer than monolingual speakers.

Conclusions: Speaking a second language may influence voice acoustic parameters, and therefore, should be considered when comparing acoustic speech metrics.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jvoice.2019.08.009DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7069795PMC
March 2021

Effects of added absorption on the vocal exertions of talkers in a reverberant room.

J Acoust Soc Am 2019 02;145(2):775

Department of Statistics, Brigham Young University, 223 Talmage Math Computer Building, Provo, Utah 84602, USA.

Occupational speech users such as schoolteachers develop voice disorders at higher rates than the general population. Previous research has suggested that room acoustics may influence these trends. The research reported in this paper utilized varying acoustical conditions in a reverberant room to assess the effects on vocal parameters of healthy talkers. Thirty-two participants were recorded while completing a battery of speech tasks under eight room conditions. Vocal parameters were derived from the recordings and the statistically significant effects of room acoustics were verified using mixed-model analysis of variance tests. Changes in reverberation time (T), early decay time (EDT), clarity index (C), speech transmission index (STI), and room gain (G) all showed highly correlated effects on certain vocal parameters, including speaking level standard deviation, speaking rate, and the acoustic vocal quality index. As T, EDT, and G increased, and as C and STI decreased, vocal parameters showed tendencies toward dysphonic phonation. Empirically derived equations are proposed that describe the relationships between select room-acoustic parameters and vocal parameters. This study provides an increased understanding of the impact of room acoustics on voice production, which could assist acousticians in improving room designs to help mitigate unhealthy vocal exertion and, by extension, voice problems.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1121/1.5089891DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6372363PMC
February 2019

Assessing the Acoustic Characteristics of Rooms: A Tutorial with Examples.

Perspect ASHA Spec Interest Groups 2018 Jan;3(19):8-24

Department of Speech and Hearing Science, University of Illinois, Champaign IL.

In both practicing audiology and speech language pathology, as well as in speech and hearing science research, the space where the work is done is an integral part of the function. Hence, for all of these endeavors it can be important to measure the acoustics of a room. This article provides a tutorial regarding the measurement of room reverberation and background noise, both of which are important when evaluating a space's strengths and limitations for speech communication. As the privacy of patients and research participants is a primary concern, the tutorial also describes a method for measuring the amount of acoustical insulation provided by a room's barriers. Several room measurement data sets - all obtained from the assessment of clinical and research spaces within our own department - are presented here as examples.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1044/persp3.SIG19.8DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6375510PMC
January 2018

The Effect of Pulmonary Function on the Incidence of Vocal Fatigue Among Teachers.

J Voice 2020 Jul 25;34(4):539-546. Epub 2019 Jan 25.

Acoustics Research Unit, School of Architecture, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, United Kingdom.

Introduction: Females face a significantly higher risk of presenting with voice problems than males. This discrepancy has been associated with a number of differences in respiratory behavior and the physiology of the laryngeal and endocrine systems.

Methods: In conjunction with established spirometry measures, the Vocal Fatigue Index (VFI) was used to determine (1) if there is a relationship between base pulmonary function and vocal fatigue among teachers; and (2) if that relationship is different in females from males. One hundred and twenty-two elementary and middle school teachers (96 females and 26 males) from the Jordan School District in Northern Utah participated in the study.

Results: VFI factors were predictors of the outcomes of several raw spirometry measures for female participants, but the same predictive relationship was not found for male participants. Additionally, there appeared to be no relationship between VFI and spirometry measures in females when using normalized, rather than raw, spirometry metrics.

Conclusions: The results suggest that the pulmonary physiology that would result in reduced raw pulmonary function, in combination with other differences associated with gender, may lead to a greater incidence of vocal fatigue among female teachers than their male counterparts.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jvoice.2018.12.011DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6656638PMC
July 2020

Reproducibility of Voice Parameters: The Effect of Room Acoustics and Microphones.

J Voice 2020 May 22;34(3):320-334. Epub 2018 Nov 22.

Lakeshore Ear, Nose, and Throat Center, Lakeshore Professional Voice Center, Michigan.

Introduction: Computer analysis of voice recordings is an integral part of the evaluation and management of voice disorders. In many practices, voice samples are taken in rooms that are not sound attenuated and/or sound-proofed; further, the technology used is rarely consistent. This will likely affect the recordings, and therefore, their analyses.

Objectives: The objective of this study is to compare various acoustic outcome measures taken from samples recorded in a sound-proofed booth to those recorded in more common clinic environments. Further, the effects from six different commonly used microphones will be compared.

Methods: Thirty-six speakers were recorded while reading a text and producing sustained vowels in a controlled acoustic environment. The collected samples were reproduced by a Head and Torso Simulator and recorded in three clinical rooms and in a sound booth using six different microphones. Newer measures (eg, Pitch Strength, cepstral peak prominence, Acoustic Voice Quality Index), as well as more traditional measures (eg Jitter, Shimmer, harmonics-to-noise ratio and Spectrum Tilt), were calculated from the samples collected with each microphone and within each room.

Results: The measures which are more robust to room acoustic differences, background noise, and microphone quality include Jitter and smooth cepstral peak prominence, followed by Shimmer, Acoustic Voice Quality Index, harmonics-to-noise ratio, Pitch Strength, and Spectrum Tilt.

Conclusions: The effect of room acoustics and background noise on voice parameters appears to be stronger than the type of microphone used for the recording. Consequently, an appropriate acoustical clinical space may be more important than the quality of the microphone.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jvoice.2018.10.016DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6529301PMC
May 2020

Sensitivity analysis of muscle mechanics-based voice simulator to determine gender-specific speech characteristics.

Biomech Model Mechanobiol 2019 Apr 16;18(2):453-462. Epub 2018 Nov 16.

Department of Communicative Sciences and Disorders, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI, USA.

The purpose of this study was to investigate the gender differences in voice simulation using a sensitivity analysis approach. A global, Monte Carlo-based approach was employed, and the relationships between biomechanical inputs (lung pressure and muscle activation levels) and acoustic outputs (fundamental frequency, f, and sound pressure level, SPL) were investigated for male and female versions of a voice simulator model. The gender distinction in the model was based on an anatomical scaling of the laryngeal structures. Results showed strong relationships for f and SPL as functions of lung pressure, as well as for f as a function of cricothyroid and thyroarytenoid muscle activity, in agreement with previous literature. Also expected was a systematic shift in f range between the genders. It was found that the female model exhibited greater pitch strength (saliency) than the male model, which might equate to a perceptually more periodic or higher-quality voice for females. In addition, the female model required slightly higher lung pressures than the male model to achieve the same SPL, suggesting a possibly greater phonatory effort and predisposition for fatigue in the female voice. The methods and results of this study lay the groundwork for a complete mapping of simulator sound signal characteristics as a function of simulator input parameters and a better understanding of gender-specific voice production and vocal health.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10237-018-1095-7DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6420370PMC
April 2019

Comparison of Pitch Strength With Perceptual and Other Acoustic Metric Outcome Measures Following Medialization Laryngoplasty.

J Voice 2019 Sep;33(5):795-800

Department of Communicative Sciences and Disorders, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan.

Introduction: The diagnoses of voice disorders, as well as treatment outcomes, are often tracked using visual (eg, stroboscopic images), auditory (eg, perceptual ratings), objective (eg, from acoustic or aerodynamic signals), and patient report (eg, Voice Handicap Index and Voice-Related Quality of Life) measures. However, many of these measures are known to have low to moderate sensitivity and specificity for detecting changes in vocal characteristics, including vocal quality.

Objective: The objective of this study was to compare changes in estimated pitch strength (PS) with other conventionally used acoustic measures based on the cepstral peak prominence (smoothed cepstral peak prominence, cepstral spectral index of dysphonia, and acoustic voice quality index), and clinical judgments of voice quality (GRBAS [grade, roughness, breathiness, asthenia, strain] scale) following laryngeal framework surgery.

Methods: This study involved post hoc analysis of recordings from 22 patients pretreatment and post treatment (thyroplasty and behavioral therapy). Sustained vowels and connected speech were analyzed using objective measures (PS, smoothed cepstral peak prominence, cepstral spectral index of dysphonia, and acoustic voice quality index), and these results were compared with mean auditory-perceptual ratings by expert clinicians using the GRBAS scale.

Results: All four acoustic measures changed significantly in the direction that usually indicates improved voice quality following treatment (P < 0.005). Grade and breathiness correlated the strongest with the acoustic measures (|r| ~ 0.7) with strain being the least correlated.

Conclusions: Acoustic analysis on running speech highly correlates with judged ratings. PS is a robust, easily obtained acoustic measure of voice quality that could be useful in the clinical environment to follow treatment of voice disorders.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jvoice.2018.03.019DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6336519PMC
September 2019

Accuracy of the quantities measured by four vocal dosimeters and its uncertainty.

J Acoust Soc Am 2018 03;143(3):1591

Voice Biomechanics and Acoustics Laboratory, Department of Communicative Sciences and Disorders, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan 48824, USA.

Although vocal dosimeters are often used for long-term voice monitoring, the uncertainty of the quantities measured by these devices is not always stated. In this study, two common vocal dosimetry quantities, mean vocal sound pressure level and mean vocal fundamental frequency, were measured by four vocal dosimeters (VocaLog2, VoxLog, Voice Care, and APM3200). The expanded uncertainty of the mean error in the estimation of these two quantities as measured by the four dosimeters was performed by simultaneously comparing signals acquired through a reference microphone and the devices themselves. Dosimeters, assigned in random order, were worn by the participants (22 vocally healthy adults), along with a head-mounted microphone, which acted as a reference. For each device, participants produced a sustained /a/ vowel four times and then read a text with three different vocal efforts (relaxed, normal, and raised). The measurement uncertainty was obtained by comparing data from the microphone and the dosimeters. The mean vocal sound pressure level was captured the most accurately by the Voice Care and the VoxLog while the APM3200 was the least accurate. The most accurate mean vocal fundamental frequency was estimated by the Voice Care and the APM3200, while the VoxLog was the least accurate.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1121/1.5027816DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5864503PMC
March 2018

The Effect of Classroom Capacity on Vocal Fatigue as Quantified by the Vocal Fatigue Index.

Folia Phoniatr Logop 2017 12;69(3):85-93. Epub 2017 Dec 12.

Department of Communicative Sciences and Disorders, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan, USA.

Objective: Previous research has concluded that teachers are at a higher-than-normal risk for voice issues that can cause occupational limitations. While some risk factors have been identified, there are still many unknowns.

Patients And Methods: A survey was distributed electronically with 506 female teacher respondents. The survey included questions to quantify three aspects of vocal fatigue as captured by the Vocal Fatigue Index (VFI): (1) general tiredness of voice (performance), (2) physical discomfort associated with voicing (pain), and (3) improvement of symptoms with rest (recovery). The effect of classroom capacity on US teachers' self-reported experience of vocal fatigue was analyzed.

Results: The results indicated that a classroom's capacity significantly affected teachers' reported amounts of vocal fatigue, while a teacher's age also appeared to significantly affect the reported amount of vocal fatigue. A quadratic rather than linear effect was seen, with the largest age effect occurring at around 40-45 years in all three factors of the VFI.

Conclusion: Further factors which may affect vocal fatigue must be explored in future research. By understanding what increases the risk for vocal fatigue, educators and school administrators can take precautions to mitigate the occupational risk of short- and long-term vocal health issues in school teachers.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1159/000484558DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6336191PMC
February 2019

Gender Differences in the Reporting of Vocal Fatigue in Teachers as Quantified by the Vocal Fatigue Index.

Ann Otol Rhinol Laryngol 2017 Dec 27;126(12):813-818. Epub 2017 Oct 27.

1 Department of Communicative Sciences and Disorders, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan, USA.

Objectives: Occupational voice users report higher instances of vocal health problems. Women, who are more likely than men to report voice problems, are the largest members of some occupational voice users, such as teachers. While a common complaint among this population is vocal fatigue, it has been difficult to quantify. Therefore, the goal of this study is to quantify vocal fatigue generally in school teachers and investigate any related gender differences.

Methods: Six hundred forty (518 female, 122 male) teachers were surveyed using an online questionnaire consisting in part of the Vocal Fatigue Index (VFI), an index specifically designed to quantify vocal fatigue.

Results: Compared to vocally healthy adults, the teachers surveyed were 3 times as likely to report vocal tiredness or vocal avoidance and over 3 times as likely to report physical voice discomfort. Additionally, female teachers were more likely to have scores approaching those with dysphonia.

Conclusions: The VFI quantified elevated levels of vocal fatigue in teachers, with a significant prevalence of symptoms reported among females compared to males. Further, because the VFI indicated elevated complaints (between normal and dysphonic) in a population likely to be elevated, the VFI might be used to identify early indications of voice problems and/or track recovery.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0003489417738788DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6309974PMC
December 2017

Evaluation of the starting point of the Lombard Effect.

Acta Acust United Acust 2017 Jan-Feb;103(1):169-172. Epub 2017 Jan 1.

Voice Biomechanics and Acoustics Laboratory, Department of Communicative Sciences and Disorders, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan, United States of America.

Speakers increase their vocal effort when their communication is disturbed by noise. This adaptation is termed the Lombard effect. The aim of the present study was to determine whether this effect has a starting point. Hence, the effects of noise at levels between 20 and 65 dB(A) on vocal effort (quantified by sound pressure level) and on both perceived noise disturbance and perceived vocal discomfort were evaluated. Results indicate that there is a Lombard effect change-point at a background noise level (Ln) of 43.3 dB(A). This change-point is anticipated by noise disturbance, and is followed by a high magnitude of vocal discomfort.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3813/AAA.919043DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5612409PMC
January 2017

Speech produced in noise: Relationship between listening difficulty and acoustic and durational parameters.

J Acoust Soc Am 2017 08;142(2):974

Voice Biomechanics and Acoustics Laboratory, Department of Communicative Sciences and Disorders, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan 48824, USA.

Conversational speech produced in noise can be characterised by increases in intelligibility relative to such speech produced in quiet. Listening difficulty (LD) is a metric that can be used to evaluate speech transmission performance more sensitively than intelligibility scores in situations in which performance is likely to be high. The objectives of the present study were to evaluate the LD of speech produced in different noise and style conditions, to evaluate the spectral and durational speech modifications associated with these conditions, and to determine whether any of the spectral and durational parameters predicted LD. Nineteen subjects were instructed to speak at normal and loud volumes in the presence of background noise at 40.5 dB(A) and babble noise at 61 dB(A). The speech signals were amplitude-normalised, combined with pink noise to obtain a signal-to-noise ratio of -6 dB, and presented to twenty raters who judged their LD. Vowel duration, fundamental frequency and the proportion of the spectral energy in high vs low frequencies increased with the noise level within both styles. LD was lowest when the speech was produced in the presence of high level noise and at a loud volume, indicating improved intelligibility. Spectrum balance was observed to predict LD.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1121/1.4997906DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5648561PMC
August 2017

Listener estimates of talker age in a single-talker, 50-year longitudinal sample.

J Commun Disord 2017 Jul 9;68:103-112. Epub 2017 Jun 9.

Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT, United States.

Purpose: While many studies have shown that listeners make relatively accurate age judgments from hearing talkers' voices, most have used just one age per talker. The present study evaluated listeners' age estimation abilities for a longitudinal sample: a single talker recorded over nearly five decades.

Method: We extracted 60 samples from addresses given by a male talker over 48 years. For each sample, listeners gave a direct estimate of his age. We also asked listeners if they could identify the talker, who was known locally, from the recordings.

Results: While correlations between the talker's chronological age and direct estimates of age were generally strong, the relationship was particularly strong when the talker was older than 68 years, although listeners underestimated chronological age by approximately 5 years. When the talker was between 49 and 68 years, direct age estimates were less accurate and less strongly correlated with chronological age. Additionally, direct age estimates were more accurate when listeners recognized the talker.

Conclusions: Corroborating cross-sectional studies, our listeners overestimated the talker's age when he was younger and underestimated it when he was older. However, the crossover between overestimation and underestimation, the point where estimated and chronological ages were equal, occurred at a later talker age for this longitudinal study than in previous cross-sectional studies. Additionally, listeners who recognized the talker made more accurate age estimates when the talker's chronological age was near the age where they would have known him. We propose future studies explore the relationship between familiarity and estimated age.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jcomdis.2017.06.001DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6396679PMC
July 2017

Talker age estimation using machine learning.

Proc Meet Acoust 2017 Jun 25;30(1). Epub 2018 Oct 25.

Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, University of Utah Salt Lake City, UT.

As a person ages, the acoustic characteristics of the voice change. Understanding how the sound of a voice changes with age may give insight into physiological changes related to vocal function. Previous work has shown changes in acoustical parameters with chronological age, as well as differences between listener-perceived age and chronological age. However, much of this previous work was done using cross-sectional speech samples, which will show changes with age but may average out important variability with regard to individual aging differences. The current study used a longitudinal recording sample gathered from a corpus of speeches from a single individual spanning about 50 years (48 to 97 years of age). This study investigates how the voice changes with age using both chronological age and perceived age as independent variables; perceived age data were obtained in a previous direct age estimation study. Using the longitudinal recordings, a range of voice and speech acoustic parameters were extracted. These parameters were fitted to a supervised learning model to predict chronological age and perceived age. Differences between the chronological age and perceived age models as well as the usefulness of the various acoustic parameters will be discussed.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1121/2.0000921DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6821442PMC
June 2017

Pitch Strength as an Outcome Measure for Treatment of Dysphonia.

J Voice 2017 Nov 17;31(6):691-696. Epub 2017 Mar 17.

Department of Communicative Sciences and Disorders, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan; Office of the Vice President for Instruction, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia.

Background: Measurement of treatment outcomes is critical for the spectrum of voice treatments (ie, surgical, behavioral, or pharmacological). Outcome measures typically include visual (eg, stroboscopic data), auditory (eg, Consensus Auditory-Perceptual Evaluation of Voice; Grade, Roughness, Breathiness, Asthenia, Strain), and objective correlates of vocal fold vibratory characteristics, such as acoustic signals (eg, harmonics-to-noise ratio, cepstral peak prominence) or patient self-reported questionnaires (eg, Voice Handicap Index, Voice-Related Quality of Life). Subjective measures often show high variability, whereas most acoustic measures of voice are only valid for signals where some degree of periodicity can be assumed. However, this assumption is often invalid for dysphonic voices where signal periodicity is suspect. Furthermore, many of these measures are not useful in isolation for diagnostic purposes.

Objective: We evaluated a recently developed algorithm (Auditory Sawtooth Waveform Inspired Pitch Estimator-Prime [Auditory-SWIPE']) for estimating pitch and pitch strength for dysphonic voices. Whereas fundamental frequency is a physical attribute of a signal, pitch is its psychophysical correlate. As such, the perception of pitch can extend to most signals irrespective of their periodicity.

Methods: Post hoc analyses were conducted for three groups of patients evaluated and treated for voice problems at a major voice center: (1) muscle tension dysphonia/functional dysphonia, (2) vocal fold mass(es), and (3) presbyphonia. All patients were recorded before and after surgical/behavioral treatment for voice disorders. Pitch and pitch strength for each speaker were computed with the Auditory-SWIPE' algorithm.

Results: Comparison of pre- and posttreatment data provides support for pitch strength as a measure of treatment outcomes for dysphonic voices.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jvoice.2017.01.016DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5600631PMC
November 2017

Teachers' voicing and silence periods during continuous speech in classrooms with different reverberation times.

J Acoust Soc Am 2017 01;141(1):EL26

Voice Biomechanics and Acoustics Laboratory, Department of Communicative Sciences and Disorders, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan 48824, USA.

The relationship between reverberation times and the voicing and silence accumulations of continuous speech was quantified in 22 primary-school teachers. Teachers were divided into a high and a low reverberation time groups based on their classroom reverberation time (higher and lower than 0.90 s). Reverberation times higher than 0.90 s implicate higher voicing accumulations and higher accumulations of the silences typical of turn taking in dialogue. These results suggest that vocal load, which can lead to vocal fatigue, is influenced by classroom reverberation time. Therefore, it may be considered a risk factor for occupational voice users.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1121/1.4973312DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5392096PMC
January 2017

Effects of voice-sparing cricotracheal resection on phonation in women.

Laryngoscope 2017 09 24;127(9):2085-2092. Epub 2016 Nov 24.

Division of Otolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery, The University of Utah School of Medicine, Salt Lake City, Utah, U.S.A.

Introduction: Individuals with idiopathic subglottic stenosis (SGS) are at risk for voice disorders prior to and following surgical management. This study examined the nature and severity of voice disorders in patients with SGS before and after a revised cricotracheal resection (CTR) procedure designed to minimize adverse effects on voice function.

Method: Eleven women with idiopathic SGS provided presurgical and postsurgical audio recordings. Voice Handicap Index (VHI) scores were also collected. Cepstral, signal-to-noise, periodicity, and fundamental frequency (F ) analyses were undertaken for connected speech and sustained vowel samples. Listeners made auditory-perceptual ratings of overall quality and monotonicity.

Results: Paired samples statistical analyses revealed that mean F decreased from 215 Hz (standard deviation [SD] = 40 Hz) to 201 Hz (SD = 65 Hz) following surgery. In general, VHI scores decreased after surgery. Voice disorder severity based on the Cepstral Spectral Index of Dysphonia (KayPentax, Montvale, NJ) for sustained vowels decreased (improved) from 41 (SD = 41) to 25 (SD = 21) points; no change was observed for connected speech. Semitone SD (2.2 semitones) did not change from pre- to posttreatment. Auditory-perceptual ratings demonstrated similar results.

Conclusion: These preliminary results indicate that this revised CTR procedure is promising in minimizing adverse voice effects while offering a longer-term surgical outcome for SGS. Further research is needed to determine causal factors for pretreatment voice disorders, as well as to optimize treatments in this population.

Level Of Evidence: 4. Laryngoscope, 127:2085-2092, 2017.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/lary.26429DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5443709PMC
September 2017

Progression of Voice Breaks in a Nonpathological Voice as an Indicator of Aerodigestive Health.

J Am Geriatr Soc 2016 10 26;64(10):e93-e94. Epub 2016 Aug 26.

Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa.

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http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5073001PMC
http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/jgs.14425DOI Listing
October 2016

Silence and Voicing Accumulations in Italian Primary School Teachers With and Without Voice Disorders.

J Voice 2017 Mar 14;31(2):260.e11-260.e20. Epub 2016 Jun 14.

Voice Biomechanics and Acoustics Laboratory, Department of Communicative Sciences and Disorders, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan.

Objectives: The relationship between the silence and voicing accumulations of primary school teachers and the teachers' clinical status was examined to determine whether more voicing accumulations and fewer silence accumulations were measured for the vocally unhealthy subjects than for the healthy subjects, which would imply more vocal loading and fewer short-term recovery moments.

Methods: Twenty-six Italian primary school teachers were allocated by clinicians to three groups: (1) with organic voice disorders, (2) with subjectively mild organic alteration or functional voice symptoms, and (3) normal voice quality and physiology. Continuous silence and voicing periods were measured with the APM3200 during the teachers' 4-hour workdays. The accumulations were grouped into seven time intervals, ranging from 0.03-0.9 to 3.16-10 seconds, according to Italian prosody. The effects of group on silence and voicing accumulations were evaluated.

Results: Regarding silence accumulations, Group 1 accumulated higher values in intervals between 0.1 and 3.15 seconds than other groups, whereas Groups 2 and 3 did not differ from each other. Voicing accumulations between 0.17 and 3.15 seconds were higher for subjects with a structural disorder. A higher time dose was accumulated by these subjects (40.6%) than other subjects (Group 2, 31.9%; Group 3, 32.3%).

Conclusions: Although previous research has suggested that a rest period of a few seconds may produce some vocal fatigue recovery, these results indicate that periods shorter than 3.16 seconds may not have an observable effect on recovery. The results provide insight into how vocal fatigue and vocal recovery may relate to voice disorders in occupational voice users.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jvoice.2016.05.009DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5156594PMC
March 2017

Effects of speech style, room acoustics, and vocal fatigue on vocal effort.

J Acoust Soc Am 2016 05;139(5):2870

Voice Biomechanics and Acoustics Laboratory, Department of Communicative Sciences and Disorders, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan 48824, USA.

Vocal effort is a physiological measure that accounts for changes in voice production as vocal loading increases. It has been quantified in terms of sound pressure level (SPL). This study investigates how vocal effort is affected by speaking style, room acoustics, and short-term vocal fatigue. Twenty subjects were recorded while reading a text at normal and loud volumes in anechoic, semi-reverberant, and reverberant rooms in the presence of classroom babble noise. The acoustics in each environment were modified by creating a strong first reflection in the talker position. After each task, the subjects answered questions addressing their perception of the vocal effort, comfort, control, and clarity of their own voice. Variation in SPL for each subject was measured per task. It was found that SPL and self-reported effort increased in the loud style and decreased when the reflective panels were present and when reverberation time increased. Self-reported comfort and control decreased in the loud style, while self-reported clarity increased when panels were present. The lowest magnitude of vocal fatigue was experienced in the semi-reverberant room. The results indicate that early reflections may be used to reduce vocal effort without modifying reverberation time.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1121/1.4950812DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5392070PMC
May 2016

Spectral-normalization filter for subjective analysis of the aging voice.

Proc Meet Acoust 2016 May 30;26(1). Epub 2018 Mar 30.

Department of Physics and Astronomy, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT.

Voice quality changes with age. In many cases, these voice changes result in a lower quality of life. Because one way of identifying these voice quality changes is through perceptually estimating talker age, correlations made between estimated talker age and acoustic analysis can provide insight to the possible physiological degeneration related to vocal function. While most perceptual studies investigating estimated talker age are cross-sectional, a longitudinal study of single speakers could provide additional details in the progressive degeneration of the voice quality. Nevertheless, one limitation of these studies is that perceptual ratings of voice quality or talker age in a longitudinal study could be biased by recording quality. Further, the spectral qualities of recordings from earlier decades are limited by the technology used. In this paper, a spectral-normalization filter was developed and applied to a corpus of recordings from an individual spanning about 50 years (1959 - 2007) to reduce this impact of these limitations. The filter was shown to be effective in normalizing the autospectra of the recordings and the fundamental frequency was unaffected by the filter. Preliminary subjective analysis suggests that the recording quality of all the files were perceptually similar.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1121/2.0000770DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6764524PMC
May 2016

Teachers and Teaching: Speech Production Accommodations Due to Changes in the Acoustic Environment.

Energy Procedia 2015 Nov;78:3102-3107

Physics and Astronomy, Brigham Young University, N283 ESC, Provo, UT 84602.

School teachers have an elevated risk of voice problems due to the vocal demands in the workplace. This manuscript presents the results of three studies investigating teachers' voice use at work. In the first study, 57 teachers were observed for 2 weeks (waking hours) to compare how they used their voice in the school environment and in non-school environments. In a second study, 45 participants performed a short vocal task in two different rooms: a variable acoustic room and an anechoic chamber. Subjects were taken back and forth between the two rooms. Each time they entered the variable acoustics room, the reverberation time and/or the background noise condition had been modified. In this latter study, subjects responded to questions about their vocal comfort and their perception of changes in the acoustic environment. In a third study, 20 untrained vocalists performed a simple vocal task in the following conditions: with and without background babble and with and without transparent plexiglass shields to increase the first reflection. Relationships were examined between [1] the results for the room acoustic parameters; [2] the subjects' perception of the room; and [3] the recorded speech acoustic. Several differences between male and female subjects were found; some of those differences held for each room condition (at school vs. not at school, reverberation level, noise level, and early reflection).
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.egypro.2015.11.764DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4774899PMC
November 2015

Effect of Training and Level of External Auditory Feedback on the Singing Voice: Pitch Inaccuracy.

J Voice 2017 Jan 2;31(1):122.e9-122.e16. Epub 2016 Mar 2.

Voice Biomechanics and Acoustics Laboratory, Department of Communicative Sciences and Disorders, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan.

Background: One of the most important aspects of singing is the control of fundamental frequency.

Objectives: The effects on pitch inaccuracy, defined as the distance in cents in equally tempered tuning between the reference note and the sung note, of the following conditions were evaluated: (1) level of external feedback, (2) tempo (slow or fast), (3) articulation (legato or staccato), (4) tessitura (low, medium, or high), and (5) semi-phrase direction (ascending or descending).

Methods: The subjects were 10 nonprofessional singers and 10 classically trained professional or semi-professional singers (10 men and 10 women). Subjects sang one octave and a fifth arpeggi with three different levels of external auditory feedback, two tempi, and two articulations (legato or staccato).

Results: It was observed that inaccuracy was greatest in the descending semi-phrase arpeggi produced at a fast tempo and with a staccato articulation, especially for nonprofessional singers. The magnitude of inaccuracy was also relatively large in the high tessitura relative to the low and the medium tessitura for such singers. Contrary to predictions, when external auditory feedback was strongly attenuated by the hearing protectors, nonprofessional singers showed greater pitch accuracy than in the other external feedback conditions. This finding indicates the importance of internal auditory feedback in pitch control.

Conclusions: With an increase in training, the singer's pitch inaccuracy decreases.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jvoice.2016.01.012DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5010534PMC
January 2017

Assessments of Voice Use and Voice Quality Among College/University Singing Students Ages 18-24 Through Ambulatory Monitoring With a Full Accelerometer Signal.

J Voice 2017 Jan 17;31(1):124.e21-124.e30. Epub 2016 Feb 17.

Communicative Sciences and Disorders, Michigan State University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The multiple social and performance demands placed on college/university singers could put their still-developing voices at risk. Previous ambulatory monitoring studies have analyzed the duration, intensity, and frequency (in Hertz) of voice use among such students. Nevertheless, no studies to date have incorporated the simultaneous acoustic voice quality measures into the acquisition of these measures to allow for direct comparison during the same voicing period. Such data could provide greater insight into how young singers use their voices, as well as identify potential correlations between vocal dose and acoustic changes in voice quality. The purpose of this study was to assess the voice use and the estimated voice quality of college/university singing students (18-24 years old, N = 19). Ambulatory monitoring was conducted over three full, consecutive weekdays measuring voice from an unprocessed accelerometer signal measured at the neck. From this signal, traditional vocal dose metrics such as phonation percentage, dose time, cycle dose, and distance dose were analyzed. Additional acoustic measures included perceived pitch, pitch strength, long-term average spectrum slope, alpha ratio, dB sound pressure level 1-3 kHz, and harmonic-to-noise ratio. Major findings from more than 800 hours of recording indicated that among these students (a) higher vocal doses correlated significantly with greater voice intensity, more vocal clarity and less perturbation; and (b) there were significant differences in some acoustic voice quality metrics between nonsinging, solo singing, and choral singing.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jvoice.2015.12.018DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4988942PMC
January 2017
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