Acoustic and videoendoscopic techniques to improve voice assessment via relative fundamental frequency
Vojtech, Jennifer Michele
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Quantitative measures of laryngeal muscle tension are needed to improve assessment and track clinical progress. Although relative fundamental frequency (RFF) shows promise as an acoustic estimate of laryngeal muscle tension, it is not yet transferable to the clinic. The purpose of this work was to refine algorithmic estimation of RFF, as well as to enhance the knowledge surrounding the physiological underpinnings of RFF. The first study used a large database of voice samples collected from 227 speakers with voice disorders and 256 typical speakers to evaluate the effects of fundamental frequency estimation techniques and voice sample characteristics on algorithmic RFF estimation. By refining fundamental frequency estimation using the Auditory Sawtooth Waveform Inspired Pitch Estimator—Prime (Auditory-SWIPE′) algorithm and accounting for sample characteristics via the acoustic measure, pitch strength, algorithmic errors related to the accuracy and precision of RFF were reduced by 88.4% and 17.3%, respectively. The second study sought to characterize the physiological factors influencing acoustic outputs of RFF estimation. A group of 53 speakers with voice disorders and 69 typical speakers each produced the utterance, /ifi/, while simultaneous recordings were collected using a microphone and flexible nasendoscope. Acoustic features calculated via the microphone signal were examined in reference to the physiological initiation and termination of vocal fold vibration. The features that corresponded with these transitions were then implemented into the RFF algorithm, leading to significant improvements in the precision of the RFF algorithm to reflect the underlying physiological mechanisms for voicing offsets (p < .001, V = .60) and onsets (p < .001, V = .54) when compared to manual RFF estimation. The third study further elucidated the physiological underpinnings of RFF by examining the contribution of vocal fold abduction to RFF during intervocalic voicing offsets. Vocal fold abductory patterns were compared to RFF values in a subset of speakers from the second study, comprising young adults, older adults, and older adults with Parkinson’s disease. Abductory patterns were not significantly different among the three groups; however, vocal fold abduction was observed to play a significant role in measures of RFF at voicing offset. By improving algorithmic estimation and elucidating aspects of the underlying physiology affecting RFF, this work adds to the utility of RFF for use in conjunction with current clinical techniques to assess laryngeal muscle tension.
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