Purpose: Vocal exertion is common and often results in reduced respiratory and laryngeal efficiency. It is unknown, however, whether the respiratory kinematic and acoustic adjustments employed during vocal exertion differ between speakers reporting vocal fatigue and those who do not. This study compared respiratory kinematics and acoustic measures in individuals reporting low and high levels of vocal fatigue during a vocal exertion task.
Methods: Individuals reporting low (N = 20) and high (N = 10) vocal fatigue participated in a repeated measures design study over 2 days. On each day, participants completed a 10-minute vocal exertion task consisting of repeated, loud vowel productions at elevated F0 sustained for maximum phonation time. Respiratory kinematic and acoustic measures were analyzed on the 1st vowel production (T0), and the vowels produced 2 minutes (T2), 5 minutes (T5), 7 minutes (T7), and 10 minutes (T10) into the vocal exertion task. Vowel durations were also measured at each time point.
Results: No differences in respiratory kinematics were observed between low and high vocal fatigue groups at T0. As the vocal exertion task progressed (T2-T10), individuals reporting high vocal fatigue initiated phonation at lower lung volumes while individuals with low vocal fatigue initiated phonation at higher lung volumes. As the exertion task progressed, total lung volume excursion decreased in both groups. Differences in acoustic measures were observed, as individuals reporting high vocal fatigue produced softer, shorter vowels from T0 through T10.
Conclusions: Individuals reporting high vocal fatigue employed less efficient respiratory strategies during periods of increased vocal demand when compared with individuals reporting low vocal fatigue. Individuals reporting high vocal fatigue had shorter maximum phonation time on loud vowels. Further study should examine the potential screening value of loud maximum phonation time, as well as the clinical implications of the observed respiratory patterns for managing vocal fatigue.