Objective assessment of pediatric voice disorders with the acoustic voice quality index
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Objectives/Hypothesis: Instrumental measures of voice allow practitioners to assess the severity of voice disorders and objectively measure treatment outcomes. Instrumental measures should be calculated on both sustained vowel and connected speech samples to ensure ecological validity. However, there is a lack of appropriate, validated acoustic measurements for use in the pediatric population. The Acoustic Voice Quality Index (AVQI) is a multivariate acoustic measure of dysphonia that has been found to be reliable, valid, and have diagnostic accuracy and response to change in an adult population. This study aimed to evaluate the AVQI in a pediatric population. Study Design: This study was a prospective observational study of a sample of dysphonic and normophonic children. Methods: Sixty-seven preterm participants (born at less than 25 weeks gestation) aged between 6 and 15 years were recruited. Participants were excluded because of either inability to comply with task requirements or other speech-related factors that affected acoustic measurement. Forty normophonic term-born participants aged between 5 and 15 years were also recruited. AVQI analysis was conducted on a prolonged vowel sample and a sample of continuous speech. Results: The AVQI was found to have diagnostic accuracy and specificity in this population of children with and without dysphonia. It was moderately correlated with ratings of severity on the GRBAS (overall grade of hoarseness (G), roughness (R), breathiness (B), aesthenicity (A), and strain (S)), a subjective rating scale. The threshold for pathology of this sample of 3.46 showed strong sensitivity, specificity, and accuracy, with good-to-excellent likelihood ratios. Conclusions: This study found that the AVQI has diagnostic accuracy in a pediatric population, suggesting that it is an appropriate assessment tool to determine the presence and severity of pediatric voice disorders.
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