Inferring Speaker Attributes in Adductor Spasmodic Dysphonia: Ratings from Unfamiliar Listeners

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American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology









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PURPOSE: To determine whether unfamiliar listeners' perceptions of speakers with adductor spasmodic dysphonia (ADSD) differ from control speakers on the parameters of relative age, confidence, tearfulness, and vocal effort and are related to speaker-rated vocal effort or voice-specific quality of life.

METHOD: Twenty speakers with ADSD (including 6 speakers with ADSD plus tremor) and 20 age- and sex-matched controls provided speech recordings, completed a voice-specific quality-of-life instrument (Voice Handicap Index; Jacobson et al., 1997), and rated their own vocal effort. Twenty listeners evaluated speech samples for relative age, confidence, tearfulness, and vocal effort using rating scales.

RESULTS: Listeners judged speakers with ADSD as sounding significantly older, less confident, more tearful, and more effortful than control speakers (p < .01). Increased vocal effort was strongly associated with decreased speaker confidence (rs = .88-.89) and sounding more tearful (rs = .83-.85). Self-rated speaker effort was moderately related (rs = .45-.52) to listener impressions. Listeners' perceptions of confidence and tearfulness were also moderately associated with higher Voice Handicap Index scores (rs = .65-.70).

CONCLUSION: Unfamiliar listeners judge speakers with ADSD more negatively than control speakers, with judgments extending beyond typical clinical measures. The results have implications for counseling and understanding the psychosocial effects of ADSD.


Portions of this article were presented as a poster at the Voice Foundation's 41st Annual Symposium, “Care of the Professional Voice” (Philadelphia, PA, 2012). This work is based on a pre-dissertation project completed by the first author, submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for a Doctor of Philosophy degree from the Department of Speech and Hearing Sciences, University of Washington. We acknowledge funding support from the Department of Speech and Hearing Sciences at the University of Washington as well as from the Mary Gates Scholarship Fund (to the second author). Finally, we thank all listeners, as well as members of the Vocal Function Laboratory at the University of Washington, for their help throughout the year.