Voice disorder in cystic fibrosis patients

PLoS One. 2014 May 5;9(5):e96769. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0096769. eCollection 2014.


Cystic fibrosis is a common autosomal recessive disorder with drastic respiratory symptoms, including shortness of breath and chronic cough. While most of cystic fibrosis treatment is dedicated to mitigating the effects of respiratory dysfunction, the potential effects of this disease on vocal parameters have not been systematically studied. We hypothesized that cystic fibrosis patients, given their characteristic respiratory disorders, would also present dysphonic symptoms. Given that voice disorders can severely impair quality of life, the identification of a potential cystic fibrosis-related dysphonia could be of great value for the clinical evaluation and treatment of this disease. We tested our hypothesis by measuring vocal parameters, using both objective physical measures and the GRBAS subjective evaluation method, in male and female cystic fibrosis patients undergoing conventional treatment and compared them to age and sex matched controls. We found that cystic fibrosis patients had a significantly lower vocal intensity and harmonic to noise ratio, as well as increased levels of jitter and shimmer. In addition, cystic fibrosis patients also showed higher scores of roughness, breathiness and asthenia, as well as a significantly altered general grade of dysphonia. When we segregated the results according to sex, we observed that, as a group, only female cystic fibrosis patients had significantly lower values of harmonic to noise ratio and an abnormal general grade of dysphonia in relation to matched controls, suggesting that cystic fibrosis exerts a more pronounced effect on vocal parameters of women in relation to men. Overall, the dysphonic characteristics of CF patients can be explained by dysfunctions in vocal fold movement and partial upper airway obstruction, potentially caused by the accumulation of mucus and chronic cough characteristic of CF symptomatology. Our results show that CF patients exhibit significant dysphonia and suggest they may potentially benefit from voice therapy as a parallel treatment strategy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Child
  • Cystic Fibrosis / complications*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Laryngoscopy
  • Male
  • Quality of Life
  • Sex Factors
  • Speech Acoustics
  • Speech Therapy / methods
  • Vocal Cords / physiopathology
  • Voice Disorders / complications*
  • Voice Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Voice Quality
  • Young Adult

Grants and funding

This study was supported by the Federal University of Pará and the João de Barros Barreto University Hospital. MSF is a research fellow of the National Council for Research and Development (CNPQ). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. Funder's websites: http://www.ufpa.br/, http://www.barrosbarreto.ufpa.br/, http://www.cnpq.br/.