In vocally healthy children and adults, speaking voice loudness differences can significantly confound acoustic perturbation measurements. This study examines the effects of voice sound pressure level (SPL) on jitter, shimmer, and harmonics-to-noise ratio (HNR) in adults with voice disorders and a control group with normal vocal status.
This is a matched case-control study.
We assessed 58 adult female voice patients matched according to approximate age and occupation with 58 vocally healthy women. Diagnoses included vocal fold nodules (n = 39, 67.2%), polyps (n = 5, 8.6%), and muscle tension dysphonia (n = 14, 24.1%). All participants sustained the vowel /a/ at soft, comfortable, and loud phonation levels. Acoustic voice SPL, jitter, shimmer, and HNR were computed using Praat. The effects of loudness condition, voice SPL, pathology, differential diagnosis, age, and professional voice use level on acoustic perturbation measures were assessed using linear mixed models and Wilcoxon signed rank tests.
In both patient and normative control groups, increasing voice SPL correlated significantly (P < 0.001) with decreased jitter and shimmer, and increased HNR. Voice pathology and differential diagnosis were not linked to systematically higher jitter and shimmer. HNR levels, however, were statistically higher in the patient group than in the control group at comfortable phonation levels. Professional voice use level had a significant effect (P < 0.05) on jitter, shimmer, and HNR.
The clinical value of acoustic jitter, shimmer, and HNR may be limited if speaking voice SPL and professional voice use level effects are not controlled for. Future studies are warranted to investigate whether perturbation measures are useful clinical outcome metrics when controlling for these effects.