Do Listeners’ Perceptions of Confidence Relate to Self-Perceived Handicap in Spasmodic Dysphonia?

Document Type


Conference Title/Conference Publication

Undergraduate Research Symposium


Seattle, WA

Date of Presentation



Adductor spasmodic dysphonia (ADSD) is a rare neurological disorder characterized by the involuntary spasm of the vocal folds, which results in an effortful, strained voice quality. This altered voice quality may result in negative reactions from speakers with ADSD as well as their communication partners. One qualitative study reported that some ADSD speakers expressed feeling inadequate, as though their “capabilities” were called into question, when conversing with others. In reality, the way in which individuals perceive a person with a communication disorder may reveal inherent biases that extend beyond voice quality. For example, when researchers manipulated the rate and pitch of a normal voice sample, listeners similarly altered their assessment of that speaker’s characteristics, such as intelligence. Literature also indicates that the more severe an individual’s voice quality, the more negatively that individual’s traits will be perceived. Additional studies have examined how listeners’ perceptions of voice quality relate to a speaker’s voice handicap; neither topic has been investigated in ADSD. Therefore, the objectives of this study are: 1) to determine whether there is a relationship between listeners’ perceptions of severity of ADSD speech with perceived speaker’s confidence; and, 2) to determine whether listeners’ ratings of speaker confidence relate to speakers’ self-rated voice handicap. Twenty speakers with ADSD were previously recorded and completed validated questionnaires (Voice Handicap Index; VHI). Twenty inexperienced listeners are enrolled in this study. These participants will listen to and judge ADSD speech samples on overall vocal effort and speaker confidence using 100 mm visual analog scales. It is hypothesized that speakers with more severely effortful voices will receive lower ratings of speaker confidence. It is also expected that more negative assessments of confidence will correlate with a speaker’s higher VHI score. Results of this study have implications for understanding the role of potential biases in ADSD outcomes.

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