There’s an App for That?

Published: October 15th, 2014

Category: UAD Student Blog

Smartphones. What would we do without them? We line up around the block, waiting for hours for the newer, faster, bigger, better, sleeker models of our pocket companions. Everyone has them. When we lose them, our ability to function ceases. They are our flashlight, watch, calculator, phone, gaming system, computer, and television all rolled into one. But what if you could use your phone to monitor your vocal health? This is the question that speech language pathologist, Robert Hillman, Ph.D. and his team at Massachusetts General Hospital have developed an answer to in the form of a nonintrusive, easy to use smart phone app.

Many common voice disorders such as nodules and vocal fold hemorrhage result from vocal misuse or abuse and are often chronic or recurrent. Misuse is related to everyday behaviors such as increased tension or strain while speaking, use of inappropriate pitch level and excessive talking. Abuse is associated with behaviors such as excessive coughing and even brief intervals of yelling. Traditionally, clinicians rely on patient self-reports to characterize daily vocal use. However, patient reports are a subjective measure and can often be unreliable. Therefore, more objective measures of daily vocal use are needed.

The device created by Dr. Hillman and colleagues uses a small receiver which is attached to the throat with double sided sticky tape. The receiver captures and transmits information to a smartphone regarding vibrations of the vocal folds. The software app produces information about daily voice usage including amount, volume and pitch. This information is depicted in graphical format for easy interpretation.

Patients are often unaware of vocal misuse/abuse patterns and may have habituated to a particular way of using their voice. The app has a built in feedback feature which alerts the wearer of inappropriate vocal use. This feature provides patients with an easy way for continuing treatment and following recommendations beyond their clinic visit.

With the increased use of technology within the field of speech-language pathology, inventions such as this greatly increase our ability to make evaluation more accurate and treatment more accessible.

Citations:

Mehta, D. D., Zanartu, M., Feng, S. W., Cheyne, H. A., & Hillman, R. E. (2012). Mobile voice health monitoring using a wearable accelerometer sensor and a smartphone platform. Biomedical Engineering, IEEE Transactions on, 59(11), 3090-3096.