Older Patients May Lose Voice Quality Over Time, Naturally
"Depending on the diagnosis they have [Parkinson's, etc.]," Adler
tells WebMD, "I will say to them I notice that their pitch is higher or
lower, there's a tremor to your voice, you talk too slowly, too fast, whatever
the case may be, and then I'll talk how that affects the quality of their
Adler says new research is definitely beneficial, though. He used as an
example possible research into vocal changes in Parkinson's disease patients.
"I may say to somebody that's had a Parkinson's evaluation, who's 74 years
old, 'your voice is normal compared to other people just like you are, and
therefore the research says there's no therapy I can do for you -- this is just
going to be the normal neurological change that's going to occur,' or vice
versa; it might say that there is something I can do," Adler tells
Xue says he plans to conduct a larger, more extensive study on elderly voice
patterns. The knowledge of the changes in some elderly voices, and the new
norms that could be attached to that "buys them a peace of mind, otherwise,
when they get old, people start to suspect some serious disease or some problem
may be developing, especially those with a smoking or drinking history, they
may suspect well, maybe I'm going to develop a laryngeal cancer or something,
and that's not the case," Xue tells WebMD.
"It's important to develop separate norms or thresholds for the elderly
folks, because we will see more and more elderly folks out there, and we just
can no longer use the norms for the young to measure the voice[s] of the
elderly," Xue says.
The study was largely funded by a grant from Arkansas State University,
where Xue formerly taught. The study is co-authored by Dimitar Deliyski, a
digital engineer formerly with Kay Elemetrics and now with Vocal Point. Kay
Elemetrics developed the computerized model used in the study to analyze the
- As people age, vocal quality declines, which makes it difficult for speech
pathologists to determine whether the change signifies an underlying medical
- Current norms for evaluating the voice are based on young and middle-aged
people and are ineffective for an elderly population.
- Digital technology may play a crucial role in developing a new set of norms
for vocal testing in the elderly.