Training Effects on Speech Production Using a Hands-Free Electromyographically Controlled Electrolarynx Purpose The electrolarynx (EL) is a widely used device for alaryngeal speech, but it requires manual operation and produces voice that typically has a constant fundamental frequency. An electromyographically controlled EL (EMG-EL) was designed and implemented to provide hands-free control with dynamic pitch modulation. Method Three participants who ... Research Article
Research Article  |   April 01, 2007
Training Effects on Speech Production Using a Hands-Free Electromyographically Controlled Electrolarynx
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Ehab A. Goldstein
    Harvard University, Cambridge, MA
  • James T. Heaton
    Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, and Harvard Medical School, Cambridge, MA
  • Cara E. Stepp
    Harvard–MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology
  • Robert E. Hillman
    Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, and Harvard Medical School
  • Contact author: James T. Heaton, Center for Laryngeal Surgery and Voice Rehabilitation, Massachusetts General Hospital, One Bowdoin Square, 11th Floor, Boston, MA 02114. E-mail: jheaton@partners.org.
Article Information
Speech, Voice & Prosodic Disorders / Voice Disorders / Speech, Voice & Prosody / Speech / Research Articles
Research Article   |   April 01, 2007
Training Effects on Speech Production Using a Hands-Free Electromyographically Controlled Electrolarynx
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, April 2007, Vol. 50, 335-351. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2007/024)
History: Received July 19, 2005 , Accepted June 27, 2006
 
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, April 2007, Vol. 50, 335-351. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2007/024)
History: Received July 19, 2005; Accepted June 27, 2006
Web of Science® Times Cited: 13

Purpose The electrolarynx (EL) is a widely used device for alaryngeal speech, but it requires manual operation and produces voice that typically has a constant fundamental frequency. An electromyographically controlled EL (EMG-EL) was designed and implemented to provide hands-free control with dynamic pitch modulation.

Method Three participants who underwent total laryngectomy surgery and 4 participants with normal voice were trained to produce EMG-EL speech through a multiple-baseline, successive-stage protocol. Baseline performance was established through 3 testing probes, followed by multiple hour-long training sessions.

Results At the end of the training, all participants learned to initiate, sustain, and terminate EMG-EL activation in correspondence with articulation, and most were able to modulate the pitch to produce intonational contrasts. After completing the testing/training protocol, 1 of the 3 participants who underwent total laryngectomy was encouraged to independently use the EMG-EL at his residence. This participant sustained his performance for an additional 6 weeks and also used the EMG-EL successfully to communicate over the phone.

Conclusions Our findings suggest that some participants with laryngectomies and vocally normal individuals can learn to produce hands-free speech using the EMG-EL device within a few hours and that significant additional gains in device control (particularly pitch modulation) are attainable through subsequent training sessions.

Acknowledgments
This research was supported by National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders Grant R01-DC006449 and U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Rehabilitation Research and Development Grant V523P-6820, both awarded to Robert E. Hillman. We thank Kevin Kearns for his advice on single-participant experimental design.
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