Your Voice May Identify Serious Health Problems

Researchers have found biomarkers in the voice that identify certain diseases, including mental health disorders, central nervous system problems, and even heart issues!

What can be detected in a voice? Emotions? Our physical state? Our level of confidence? Yes to all!

Makes sense, right? If we feel sanguine or sad, others know it after only hearing us speak a few words. Likewise, if we are worn out or wired, self-assured or filled with self-doubt, our voices tell the tale.

Voice Bio-WHAT?

But would you believe that researchers are exploring ways that our voices can indicate disorders and diseases? They have identified people with post-traumatic stress disorder, coronary artery diesase, Parkinson’s disease, depression, and other problems. They use voice biomarkers, which are acoustic measures of the voice signal.

Blood, Urine and VOICE SAMPLE?

As you talk to Siri or Alexa, consider that someday your voice might be used as a key indicator of your health. Currently, you may use your voice to initiate web searches, operate devices, and connect with others. But imagine that for a routine physical, you have blood drawn, vitals taken, and finally, submit a voice sample for acoustic analysis!

Reality Check

I am an ASHA-certified speech-language pathologist (SLP) passionate about voice. Over the years, I have investigated a dizzying number of acoustic voice measures. But even with all of this data, we have yet to find definitive identifiers of specific voice disorders. However, SLPs are often the first professionals to suspect neurological diseases like Parkinson’s. We are experienced in listening to the voice characteristics that often accompany this disease: For instance, we may notice fast rushes of speech, reduced loudness, and reduced precision of articulation that are hallmarks of Parkinson’s disease. We have been trained to use our ears for this rather than acoustic analysis.

Therefore, I wonder about the measures used in the studies mentioned above. I will be diving deeper into the research, and will tell you more as I learn.

More Information for You

As a footnote, if you or a loved one has speech or voice concerns, contact us. We accept Medicare and Blue Cross Blue Shield PPO and are experts in treating many speech and voice problems, including Parkinson’s disease. Read more about Speak OUT!™, the highly effective therapy for Parkinson’s disease.

A New Voice

There’s a strong new voice for people who have multiple sclerosis or spasmodic dysphonia. This voice belongs to the talented actress, Selma Blair. She was recently interviewed by Robin Robinson on Nightline and Vanity Fair magazine. She certainly had a lot to say about living with MS and SD, being authentic, and learning to see others with compassion.

Spasmodic dysphonia (SD) is a voice disorder that originates in the brain. It causes spasms in the larynx which interrupt the voice. As a result, the voice may sound breathy or strained and choppy. It can also sound variably breathy and strained, depending on the type of SD. You can listen to examples of different types of spasmodic dysphonia at the website for the National Spasmodic Dysphonia Association here. Also, if you listen to the Selma Blair interview, you will hear the undulating sound of her voice, which is likely a vocal tremor. Vocal tremor is common in people with SD, and occurs in about one third of people with SD.

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a neurological disorder that can cause a wide range of symptoms. Selma Blair calls it a “snowflake disease;” this is because MS is different in everyone who has it. While voice problems can occur, many people with MS have normal voices. Much more information about MS is available at the website of the National MS Society here.

It’s well worth your time to watch the Robin Robinson interview and read the Vanity Fair article.

If you or someone you know is struggling with a voice change, disorder, or difficulty, contact us, We want to hear your story, provide resources, and help in any way we can.