Objective acoustic and aerodynamic measures of breathiness in paralytic dysphonia

Eur Arch Otorhinolaryngol. 2003 Apr;260(4):175-82. doi: 10.1007/s00405-002-0542-2. Epub 2002 Oct 18.


This study was designed to determine which objective acoustic or aerodynamic parameters allowed a homogeneous group of patients with unilateral vocal fold paralysis (UVFP) to be distinguished from an age-matched and smoking-matched control group and to search for linear correlations between the objective parameters and the subjective breathiness ratings. Eight patients with recent-onset UVFP and 12 controls were prospectively studied. The acoustic parameters measured for the vowel /a/ at a comfortable frequency and intensity were: jitter, shimmer, harmonics-to-noise ratio, cepstral peak prominence, the difference between the levels of the first two harmonics and the relative energy above 6 kHz. Aerodynamic parameters included the mean flow rate during a sustained /a/ and intraoral pressure during the production of the phoneme /pi/. The long-term average spectrum was calculated for 40 s of text, and the relative average energies in four frequency bands were compared. Six judges rated a mid-/a/ sample using a five-parameter scale with four levels of severity. Nonparametric statistical analysis revealed significant differences ( P<.05) between the UVFP group and the control group for 14 of the 19 parameters studied. Correlations between the objective parameters and perceived breathiness differed in the two groups. Correlations were not always as expected as based on previous literature reports. These measurements provided an objective qualification of voice in patients with UVFP and successfully distinguished them from the normal controls. The objective acoustic and aerodynamic measurements had generally low linear correlations with breathiness ratings in the control group. Higher correlations were seen in the UVFP group, in which breathiness was best correlated with airflow measurements.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Diagnostic Techniques, Respiratory System
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Phonation / physiology
  • Prospective Studies
  • Respiratory Mechanics*
  • Speech Acoustics*
  • Vocal Cord Paralysis / complications*
  • Voice Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Voice Disorders / etiology
  • Voice Disorders / physiopathology*