Director: Tanya L. Eadie, Ph.D.

Research in the Vocal Function Laboratory focuses on two main areas of inquiry: 1) auditory-perceptual evaluation of voice disorders, including sources of variability related to these measures; and 2) everyday communication outcomes in a number of clinical populations. These studies have involved collaborations with colleagues in Speech and Hearing Sciences, Rehabilitation Medicine, and Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery at the University of Washington and other institutions.

Auditory-perceptual Evaluation of Voice

Auditory-perceptual evaluation is an important clinical tool used in voice diagnosis, assessment, and treatment. However, the rated quality a listener derives from a signal may be affected systematically by several factors related to 1) the listener (e.g., individual bias, experience, training); 2) the task (e.g., scale used, dimensions rated); 3) the interaction between listener and task factors. This research investigates the effect of both listener and task factors on listeners’ evaluation of individuals with voice disorders. For example, what is the effect of training and/or experience on listeners' judgments? What types of voice qualities or dimensions are important when evaluating individuals with voice disorders? What types of scales are valid for evaluating voice disorders? How do auditory-perceptual measures relate to other measures of voice and speech such as acoustic characteristics, self-report measures, or even attitudes of potential communication partners? Results have implications for assessment and treatment of individuals with a variety voice disorders.

We wish to acknowledge past support for this research by the University of Washington Royalty Research Fund and the American Speech-Language-Hearing Foundation.

Communicative Participation in Head and Neck Cancer

One of the greatest difficulties experienced by individuals with head and neck cancer (HNC) relates to verbal communication. Difficulties in communication may result from alterations of structures of the speech/voice mechanism associated with primary treatment (e.g., surgical removal of tumors on tongue, larynx, palate), as well as secondary effects (e.g., radiation effects on dental health; facial disfigurement) that may interfere with a person’s ability to communicate in a number of everyday life situations. Traditional methods of assessing communication difficulties in HNC include use of speech intelligibility or voice quality measures performed by the clinician, as well as patient-reported measures (e.g., “quality of life” scales). Although these measures are valuable for planning and documenting the effectiveness of treatment, no tool is dedicated to measuring how communication difficulties are experienced by individuals in everyday life situations, or what is called “communicative participation” (Eadie et al., 2006). In the past few years, our multidisciplinary team has focused on advancing our understanding of the construct of communicative participation. We have validated the Communicative Participation Item Bank (CPIB) in a large sample of HNC survivors (Baylor et al., 2013; Eadie et al., 2014), as well as other clinical populations with communication disorders. Currently, our aim is to further establish the psychometric properties of the CPIB in a longitudinal investigation involving 300 individuals who are undergoing head and neck cancer treatment, as well as 100 individuals who are at least 5 years post-treatment. We also are studying how factors related to the treatment, the disease, psychosocial factors, or speech function affect communicative participation. Realization of these aims will help establish the validity of a meaningful outcome measure, and will provide targets for future interventions.

We gratefully acknowledge past and present support for this research (PI: Eadie) by the National Institutes of Health (National Cancer Institute: R03CA132525; completed; 1R01CA177635; in progress).