SpeechVive: Improving the Voices of Individuals with Parkinson’s Disease

Published: October 30th, 2017

Category: UAD Student Blog

By Carson Fisher & Veerley Mejia Hernandez

Parkinson’s disease is a chronic and progressive movement disorder of the central nervous system that is due to low levels of the neurotransmitter ‘dopamine’. Primary motor symptoms of Parkinson’s include tremor, slowed movement, impaired posture, and rigid muscles. Almost 90% of individuals that are diagnosed with Parkinson’s will also experience speech and voice impairments. This is mainly due to the effect that the disease has on the muscles of the lips, tongue, larynx, and the lungs. One speech deficit that is commonly seen in individuals with Parkinson’s is known as hypophonia, leading to reduced loudness in speech.

Recently, researchers have developed a medical device known as SpeechVive which capitalizes on the Lombard effect, or the natural tendency of speaker to increase loudness in noisy environments. The SpeechVive is a small, portable device that is programmed to meet the loudness requirements of the individual. It is worn on the outer ear (much like a behind-the-ear hearing aid) and is able to detect when the user is phonating. Once it detects phonation, the device activates a sound stimulus in the ear. The sound stimulus is composed of unintelligible multi-talker babble that is on for as long as the individual speaks, thus mimicking a noisy environment and eliciting the Lombard effect.

A study conducted by Dr. Elaine Stathopoulos and colleagues provides evidence that SpeechVive device is indeed very helpful in eliciting the Lombard effect in individuals with Parkinson’s. The study included 33 adults with Parkinson’s who were diagnosed with hypophonia. Each participant was fitted with a SpeechVive device. The investigators used acoustic, aerodynamic, and respiratory kinematics to make measurements on laryngeal and respiratory mechanisms that are necessary to change vocal intensity. Their study found statistical evidence that the SpeechVive device did elicit higher vocal intensities due to positive changes in laryngeal and respiratory mechanisms.

For more information about SpeechVive, visit the website at: http://www.speechvive.com.

References

Stathopoulos, E. T., Huber, J. E., Richardson, K., & et. al (2014). Increased vocal intensity due    to The Lombard effect in speakers with Parkinson’s disease: Simultaneous laryngeal and respiratory strategies. Journal of Communication Disorders, 48, 1-17. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0021992413000683

Huber, E. J., Stathopoulos, E. T., Sussman, J. E., et. al. (2014). A New Treatment, SpeechVive For Patients with Parkinson’s Disease (PowerPoint slides). Retrieved from A New Treatment, Speech Vive for Patients with Parkinson’s … – ASHA

Sadagopan, N., Huber, J. E. (2007). Effects of loudness cues on respiration in individuals with Parkinson’s disease. Official Journal of the International Parkinson and Movement Disorder Society, 22, 651-659. Doi: 10.1002/mds.21375