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 or methods 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 gratefully acknowledge current support for some of this research (PI: Stepp, Boston University; SubPI: Eadie, UW) by the National Institute of Health (NIDCD: R01CD015570). This work involves a collaboration with Dr. Cara Stepp (STEPP lab, Boston University) in an effort to validate an acoustic model of perceived overall severity in adductor laryngeal dystonia.  

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, until recently, no tool was dedicated towards measuring how communication difficulties are experienced by individuals in everyday life situations, or what is called “communicative participation” (Eadie et al., 2006). 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. We are collaborating with faculty in the UW Department of Rehabilitation Medicine (C. Baylor: SPEAC lab) about how participation is affected by social interactions with others, as well as the environment in which individuals commuicate.

We gratefully acknowledge past support for this research (PI: Eadie) by the National Institutes of Health (NCI: R03CA132525; completed; R01CA177635; completed); and NIDCD: R01DC019352: ongoing: PI: Baylor.