Voice Characteristics in Patients with Thyroid Disorders

Voice Characteristics in Patients with Thyroid Disorders
Eurasian J Med 2019; 51(2): 101-5                                                                                                            Original Article

Voice Characteristics in Patients with Thyroid Disorders
 Lejla Junuzović-Žunić1                 , Amela Ibrahimagić1        , Selma Altumbabić2

                                                        Objective: This study investigated acoustic and perceptual characteristics of the voice of patients with thy-
                                                        roid gland disorders such as hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism immediately after the diagnosis was made
                                                        and six months later, after using drug therapy.
                                                        Materials and Methods: The study includes 20 female outpatients with hypothyroidism and 27 female out-
                                                        patients with hyperthyroidism. The criterion for the selection of the patients was a thyroid gland disorder
                                                        medical diagnosis, no history of voice disorders and absence of other possible causes of voice changes.
                                                        Acoustic, perceptual and aerodynamic parameters were assessed. Acoustic analysis was performed by spe-
                                                        cific software. Experienced speech and language pathologists made perceptual voice assessment by using
                                                        grade, roughness, breathiness, asthenia, and strain (GRBAS) scale.
                                                        Results: Significant differences in patients with hypothyroidism were established on parameter amplitude
                                                        perturbation, jitter and noise-to-harmonics ratio between pretreatment and posttreatment period, in which
                                                        patients took drug therapy. In group of patients with hyperthyroidism significant difference was noted only
                                                        on aerodynamic parameter maximum phonation time. There were a significant differences in all perceptual
                                                        parameters in both groups of patients (p
Voice Characteristics in Patients with Thyroid Disorders
102 • Junuzović-Žunić et al. Voice Changes in Patients with Thyroid Disorders                                                                  Eurasian J Med 2019; 51(2): 101-5

Patients with untreated thyroid gland diseases                tients (mean age, 50 years) with hyperthyroid-            deviance, and 3 is severe deviance. The five char-
experience a wide range of symptoms that have                 ism (age range, 26-74 years).                             acteristics are grade (G), a description of the de-
a very high impact on the quality of life [10].                                                                         gree of hoarseness, which relates to the overall
Currently, few studies are available regarding the            Research Tools and Data Collection                        voice quality, integrating all deviant components;
impact of thyroid diseases on voice production,               The study was conducted at the ENT clinic of              roughness (R), the perceptual irregularity of vo-
and thyroid gland dysfunction is mainly reported              the university clinical center. A speech and lan-         cal fold vibrations, abnormal fluctuations in F0
after surgery with regard to the paralysis of the             guage pathologist performed an acoustic and               or amplitude of vibration; breathiness (B), an au-
recurrent laryngeal nerve or the superior laryn-              perceptual evaluation of the patients’ voice. The         ditive impression of air leakage through the in-
geal nerve and its impact on patients’ voice [11].            first evaluation was conducted after diagnosing           sufficient glottic closure; asthenia (A), the voice
                                                              the condition and an examination by an ENT                denotes weakness and lack of power; and strain
The aim of this study was to determine the                    specialist (pretreatment), and the second evalu-          (S), reflects a perception of vocal hyperfunction.
acoustic and perceptual characteristics of the                ation was done after 6 months (posttreatment).            The parameters of aerodynamic measurements
voice of patients with thyroid gland disorders,               During this period, patients received drug ther-          were also evaluated: maximum phonation time
such as hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism,                   apy coordinated by a specialist in nuclear medi-          (MPT) of vowel sound “a.”
immediately after the diagnosis was made and 6                cine.
months after drug therapy.                                                                                              The present study was approved by the ethics
                                                              The patient’s voice was recorded using the AKG            committee of university clinical center. All the
Materials and Methods                                         190 ES microphone. It was placed at a distance            participants provided signed informed consent
                                                              of 30 cm and at 45° according to the recom-               before they were subjected to the research pro-
Patients                                                      mendations of Union of European Phoniatri-                cedures.
The participants included female patients with                cians [12]. The recording was conducted in a
thyroid gland disorders, such as hypothyroidism               sound isolation booth with noise level less than          Statistical Analysis
and hyperthyroidism, who were treated at the                  40 dB. An average of three trials of prolongation         Statistical analysis was performed using the
clinic center. The patient selection criteria were            of vowel “a” was used for the acoustic analysis,          Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS®)
medical diagnosis of a thyroid gland disorder,                i.e., its middle part of the acoustic waveforms           software package version 24.0 (IBM Corp., Ar­
no history of voice disorders, absence of other               for at least 2 seconds. Acoustic voice analysis           monk, NY, USA). Descriptive statistics param-
known causes of voice changes, and patients                   was performed using the computer software                 eters were calculated. The normality of data
with no history of a previous surgery or trauma               Speech Training for Windows, Version 4.00 - Dr.           distribution was tested using the Shapiro–Wilk
in the head and neck. The diagnosis was made by               Speech and EZ Voice Plus™ Version 2.0. The                test. Paired-samples t-test was used to deter-
a specialist in nuclear medicine based on a typi-             acoustic vocal parameters assessed were aver-             mine differences in the acoustic parameters of
cal clinical examination, determination of hor-               age F0, frequency perturbations (jitter), ampli-          voice in two related samples of patients in the
mones in serum (thyroid-stimulating hormone                   tude perturbations (shimmer), and harmonics-              pre- and post-treatment phases. The Wilcoxon
[TSH], tri-iodothyronine, thyroxine), and ultra-              to-noise ratio (HNR).                                     signed rank test was used to calculate the differ-
sound and palpatory examinations. After the                                                                             ences of repeated measurements for perceptual
medical diagnosis of a thyroid disease, the pa-               The perceptual voice quality assessment was               parameters of two related samples. A statistical
tients underwent an ear, nose, and throat (ENT)               conducted using the Grade, Roughness, Breathi-            level of 95% (p
Eurasian J Med 2019; 51(2): 101-5                                                                 Junuzović-Žunić et al. Voice Changes in Patients with Thyroid Disorders   • 103
                                                                                                                                and post-treatment phases was not changed.
                                                                                                                                Also, no change in the percentage of the pa-
                                                                                                                                tients with hypothyroidism and abnormal F0 was
                                                                                                                                observed, but the percentage of patients with
                                                                                                                                abnormal values of the other acoustic and aero-
                                                                                                                                dynamic parameters measured had decreased in
                                                                                                                                the post-treatment period, wherein the patients
                                                                                                                                received drug therapy.

                                                                                                                                Furthermore, tests were conducted to deter-
                                                                                                                                mine whether there are significant differences
                                                                                                                                in acoustic and aerodynamic parameters, in gen-
                                                                                                                                eral, between the pretreatment and posttreat-
                                                                                                                                ment periods.

                                                                                                                                Table 1 shows that a significant difference was
                                                                                                                                found in the variable describing the amplitude
                                                                                                                                perturbations (shimmer) in patients with hypo-
Figure 1. F0-average fundamental frequency; shimmer-amplitude perturbations; HNR-harmonics-to-                                  thyroidism (p=0.032), wherein it was clear that
noise ratio; MPT-maximum phonation time of the vowel sound “a”                                                                  this parameter had significantly decreased after
                                                                                                                                treatment. In addition, there was a significant
                                                                                                                                difference in the variable describing the HNR
                                                                                                                                (p=0.017); the mean value improved in this
                                                                                                                                voice parameter posttreatment. Although the
                                                                                                                                values of the jitter parameter were in the nor-
                                                                                                                                mal range in patients with hypothyroidism in the
                                                                                                                                pretreatment phase, there was a significant dif-
                                                                                                                                ference between pretreatment and posttreat-
                                                                                                                                ment phases (p=0.03). There were no signifi-
                                                                                                                                cant changes in pre- and post-treatment periods
                                                                                                                                on variables describing the voice frequency. F0
                                                                                                                                was even lower posttreatment. Although insig-
                                                                                                                                nificant, the mean value of the MPT improved in
                                                                                                                                the posttreatment period.

                                                                                                                                When the acoustic voice parameters in patients
                                                                                                                                with hyperthyroidism in the pre and post-
                                                                                                                                treatment phases were compared, significant
                                                                                                                                differences were observed only in the MPT
Figure 2. F0-average fundamental frequency; shimmer-amplitude perturbations; jitter-frequency                                   (p=0.004). As in the patients with hypothyroid-
perturbations; HNR-harmonics-to-noise ratio; MPT-maximum phonation time of the vowel sound “a”
                                                                                                                                ism, the F0 showed a slight decrease in the voice
                                                                                                                                pitch. Although insignificant, the patients with
  Table 2. Results of the Wilcoxon signed rank test on the differences in perceptual voice parameters
  in patients with hypo and hyperthyroidism in the pretreatment and post treatment periods                                      hyperthyroidism did have better results for jitter,
                                                                                                                                shimmer, and HNR in the posttreatment period.
                                       Hypothyroidism		                                        Hyperthyroidism
  Variable                       Z                             p                         Z                        p             The perceptual voice assessments were also
  Grade                       −1.823                         0.068                     −1.897                    0.058          compared before and after treatment in pa-
  Roughness                   −2.373                         0.018                     −2.956                    0.003
                                                                                                                                tients with hypo and hyperthyroidism (Table
                                                                                                                                2). Significant differences were found in all the
  Breathiness                 −1.89                          0.059                     −2.06                     0.039
                                                                                                                                parameters in patients with hyperthyroidism,
  Asthenia                    −1.298                         0.194                     −2.913                    0.004          except for the grade parameter, but only in the
  Strain                      −2.058                         0.040                     −2.98                     0.003          parameters roughness, breathiness, and strain in
  * Wilcoxon signed rank test; Z: standardized test statistic; p
104 • Junuzović-Žunić et al. Voice Changes in Patients with Thyroid Disorders                                                     Eurasian J Med 2019; 51(2): 101-5

changes in patients with thyroid gland disorders       ter, shimmer, and HNR seem to determine the             tion widely used in the studies involving patients
[14]. The results of this study showed that the        basic perceptual elements of the voice quality:         with voice problems [21] including those with a
values of the parameters describing the voice          grade, roughness, and breathiness [21]. This            breathy and weak voice [25]. In contrast, the re-
frequency ranged within the normal values, and         data support results of the perceptual analy-           sults of the perceptual evaluation showed signifi-
there was no change in the voice frequency             sis performed in the present study, except for          cant differences in all observed variables, except
between pretreatment period and the post-              the parameter grade that was borderline in-             in grade, before and after treatment. Hyper-
treatment period, wherein the patients received        significant. Voice hoarseness and loss of voice         thyroidism is mainly the cause of hoarseness or
thyroid replacement therapy. Colton [15] stated        range are the major features of hypothyroidism.         roughness, which is often overlooked [8]. Voice
that women usually produce a basic frequency           Hoarseness has a gradual onset and a slow pro-          hoarseness is one of the problems that patients
of voice between 180 HZ and 220 Hz, and at             gression, thus limiting the patient to notice any       often complain about when they undergo vocal
the age of 40–49 years, F0 is 214 Hz [15].             voice changes [22]. Therefore, the voice qual-          therapy, although it can often be associated with
                                                       ity may be affected by the thyroid gland disease,       infection or injuries [4]. Apart from hoarseness,
Although jitter was within the normal values,          and some of the symptoms that are referred              a number of patients with a high degree of hy-
patients with hypothyroidism showed significant        to in literature regarding hypothyroidism are           perthyroidism complained of vocal disruption
improvement posttreatment for this parameter.          loss of vocal range; reduced voice frequency,           [24]. Although some symptoms are very specific
The minor glottic pulse irregularities were even       especially in women; vocal fatigue; hoarseness;         in hyperthyroidism, the sensitivity in these pa-
less noticeable after the treatment period. Most       low voice; and decreased voice intensity [23].          tients when it comes to certain symptoms is low
researchers consider that the normal value of          In some cases, mild dysphonia may occur as a            (2.9%–28.3%). In addition to hoarseness, a fre-
jitter in adults ranged between 0.5% and 1%            result of mild thyroid deficiency. Hoarseness is        quent symptom of hyperthyroidism is reported
[16].                                                  a common symptom in patients with hypothy-              to be a deep voice. However, the absence of
                                                       roidism. Kadakia, Carlson, and Sataloff [1] stat-       symptoms does not indicate the absence of thy-
The results also showed that the patients with         ed that according to Ritter, the mechanism of           roid gland disorders [26].
hypothyroidism had the biggest deviation in the        action of the thyroid hormone to the voice is
variables describing shimmer and HNR, and              unknown in patients with hypothyroidism, but it         During a study conducted on 96 patients with
significant differences before and after treat-        is believed to be related to the increased levels       thyroid gland disorders, a high prevalence of
ment were established in these parameters.             of polysaccharides and the fluid accumulation in        deviant perceptual voice features was observed.
The overall average shimmer value for females          the lamina propria in the vocal folds, paresis of       Most of these abnormalities were mild to mod-
was 0.25 dB and the critical value was 0.48 dB         the cords due to the thyroid gland enlargement,         erate deviations, and only 8% of the patients
[17]. In the pretreatment period, 40% of pa-           myxedema of the cricothyroid muscle, and neu-           had clinically significant perceptual abnormalities
tients with hypothyroidism had abnormal shim-          ral edema of the vagus nerve [6]. The thicken-          [23]. The results of another study showed that
mer, but in the posttreatment period, only 10%         ing leads to a decrease in the vibratory capac-         there are voice changes in patients with thyroid
had abnormal shimmer. The signal-to-noise ratio        ity. Singers with hypothyroidism may complain           gland disorders, which was especially evident in
also improved after the treatment. The higher          about the limitations associated with the higher        the perceptual evaluation. The voice changes in
HNR indicates better voice quality [18]. The           vocal range and vocal fatigue. In a number of           these patients were not negligible, considering
value of the aerodynamic variable before treat-        patients who are singers and experienced voice          that the presence of voice change symptoms in
ment was slightly below the normal values, and         problems and hypothyroidism, there was an in-           patients with thyroid pathology has been report-
it was on the lower limit of normal values after       crease in the voice clarity after small doses of        ed to range from 9% to 38% [14]. Patients with
treatment. The MPT was approximately 15–20             thyroid hormone replacement [24]. Speech dis-           thyroid pathology, apart from other symptoms,
seconds for adults [4].                                orders in most patients with thyroid hypofunc-          may also complain about voice changes [27], the
                                                       tion and voice changes correlate with serum             most common being hoarseness, breathiness,
Regarding hypothyroidism, Birkent et al. [19]          TSH levels [21]. Birkent et al. [19] stated that        strain, and uncertainty about how the voice will
established that after thyroidectomy was per-          dysphonia associated with hypothyroidism may            sound [28]. Cases of low voice, rough voice,
formed and an appropriate substitution therapy         vary in relation to the amount and duration of          reduced vocal range, and vocal fatigue were
was applied, a statistically significant increase in   hormone deficiency. Certain degree of changes           also reported [7]. Although the present study
the F0 parameter was observed, although this           in the patient’s thyroid status will affect the voice   found significant differences in the posttreat-
parameter was abnormal even prior to the               regardless of the absolute value of TSH level at        ment period (wherein the patients were under
therapy. The MPT was reduced after therapy,            the start of hormone replacement. It is believed        drug therapy) in only a small number of acoustic
although not statistically significant, while the      that the supplements of thyroid hormones are            parameters, which do not include parameters
other objective parameters (jitter, shimmer,           usually sufficient to control the symptoms of hy-       describing the F0, and not the same parameters
amplitude perturbation quotient, pitch pertur-         pothyroidism [1].                                       in hypo and hyperthyroidism, Birkent et al. [19]
bation quotient, and NHR) showed no signifi-                                                                   stated that it is possible, with the exemption of
cant changes after hormone replacement. This           The assessment results of the acoustic voice            the F0 parameter, that other acoustic estimation
was not the case in this study: the patients were      parameters in patients with hyperthyroidism             parameters cannot detect the subtle changes in
treated only with drugs. In cases of primary hy-       showed that the parameters describing the fre-          the mass of the vocal fold, and it is unlikely to
pothyroidism, before the substitution therapy          quency characteristics were within normal in            detect any change without a significant vibra-
was applied, F0, voice turbulence index, and soft      most patients, but 29.63% of patients had ab-           tory or epithelial disease. In any case, a patient
phonation index differed significantly from the        normal F0 in pre- and posttreatment periods.            experiences voice changes caused by the thy-
control values of the patients without hypothy-        There was significant improvement before and            roid gland disorders, and these changes may
roidism [20]. However, only a certain number           after treatment only in the variable MPT. MPT           disappear completely within 3–6 months after
of patients in this study had voice deviations. Jit-   is an indirect measure of the laryngeal func-           achieving euthyroidism [22].
Eurasian J Med 2019; 51(2): 101-5                                                        Junuzović-Žunić et al. Voice Changes in Patients with Thyroid Disorders         • 105
The limitation of this study is the small num-                S.A.; Analysis and/or Interpretation - L.J.Ž, A.I., S.A.;     14. de Morais Costa EB, de Araújo Pernambuco L.
ber of patients. Moreover, even though we re-                 Literature Search – L.J.Ž.; Writing Manuscript – L.J.Ž.;          Vocal self-assessment and auditory-perceptual as-
corded all patients’ voices in the morning after              Critical Review - L.J.Ž, A.I., S.A.                               sessment of voice in women with thyroid disease.
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the morning routine to diminish fluctuations of
                                                              Conflict of Interest: The authors have no conflicts of        15. Roth FP, Worthington CK. Treatment resource
acoustic voice parameters during the day and
                                                              interest to declare.                                              manual for speech language pathology. Thomson
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