Ultrasound Images of the Tongue: A Tutorial for Assessment and Remediation of Speech Sound Errors

J Vis Exp. 2017 Jan 3;(119):55123. doi: 10.3791/55123.


Diagnostic ultrasound imaging has been a common tool in medical practice for several decades. It provides a safe and effective method for imaging structures internal to the body. There has been a recent increase in the use of ultrasound technology to visualize the shape and movements of the tongue during speech, both in typical speakers and in clinical populations. Ultrasound imaging of speech has greatly expanded our understanding of how sounds articulated with the tongue (lingual sounds) are produced. Such information can be particularly valuable for speech-language pathologists. Among other advantages, ultrasound images can be used during speech therapy to provide (1) illustrative models of typical (i.e. "correct") tongue configurations for speech sounds, and (2) a source of insight into the articulatory nature of deviant productions. The images can also be used as an additional source of feedback for clinical populations learning to distinguish their better productions from their incorrect productions, en route to establishing more effective articulatory habits. Ultrasound feedback is increasingly used by scientists and clinicians as both the expertise of the users increases and as the expense of the equipment declines. In this tutorial, procedures are presented for collecting ultrasound images of the tongue in a clinical context. We illustrate these procedures in an extended example featuring one common error sound, American English /r/. Images of correct and distorted /r/ are used to demonstrate (1) how to interpret ultrasound images, (2) how to assess tongue shape during production of speech sounds, (3), how to categorize tongue shape errors, and (4), how to provide visual feedback to elicit a more appropriate and functional tongue shape. We present a sample protocol for using real-time ultrasound images of the tongue for visual feedback to remediate speech sound errors. Additionally, example data are shown to illustrate outcomes with the procedure.

Publication types

  • Video-Audio Media

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Movement / physiology
  • Sound
  • Speech / physiology*
  • Speech Production Measurement
  • Tongue / diagnostic imaging*
  • Tongue / physiology
  • Ultrasonography
  • Young Adult