Objectives: Investigation sought to determine whether there is any acoustic variable to objectively differentiate gender in children with normal voices.
Methods: A total of 30 children, 15 boys and 15 girls, with perceptually normal voices were examined. They were between 7 and 10 years old (mean: 8.1, SD: 0.7 years). Subjects were required to perform the following phonatory tasks: (1) to phonate sustained vowels [a:], [i:], [u:], (2) to read a phonetically balanced text, and (3) to sing a song. Acoustic analysis included long-term average spectrum (LTAS), fundamental frequency (F0), speaking fundamental frequency (SFF), equivalent continuous sound level (Leq), linear predictive code (LPC) to obtain formant frequencies, perturbation measures, harmonic to noise ratio (HNR), and Cepstral peak prominence (CPP). Auditory perceptual analysis was performed by four blinded judges to determine gender.
Results: No significant gender-related differences were found for most acoustic variables. Perceptual assessment showed good intra and inter rater reliability for gender. Cepstrum for [a:], alpha ratio in text, shimmer for [i:], F3 in [a:], and F3 in [i:], were the parameters that composed the multivariate logistic regression model to best differentiate male and female children's voices.
Conclusion: Since perceptual assessment reliably detected gender, it is likely that other acoustic markers (not evaluated in the present study) are able to make clearer gender differences. For example, gender-specific patterns of intonation may be a more accurate feature for differentiating gender in children's voices.
Keywords: Acoustic analysis; Children; Gender; Perceptual analysis; Singing voice; Speaking voice.
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