Epidemiology of Vocal Health in Young Adults Attending College in the United States Purpose The purpose of this study was to document typical vocal health characteristics (including voice-related activities, behaviors, and symptomatology) of young adults attending college and to determine lifetime and point prevalence rates of voice disorders. Method Undergraduates at University of Wisconsin–Madison completed an anonymous online survey detailing vocal ... Research Article
Research Article  |   October 01, 2016
Epidemiology of Vocal Health in Young Adults Attending College in the United States
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Naomi A. Hartley
    Division of Otolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery, University of Wisconsin–Madison
  • Ellen Breen
    Division of Otolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery, University of Wisconsin–Madison
  • Susan L. Thibeault
    Division of Otolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery, University of Wisconsin–Madison
  • Disclosure: The authors have declared that no competing interests existed at the time of publication.
    Disclosure: The authors have declared that no competing interests existed at the time of publication. ×
  • Correspondence to Susan L. Thibeault: thibeault@surgery.wisc.edu
  • Editor: Jody Kreiman
    Editor: Jody Kreiman×
  • Associate Editor: Eric Hunter
    Associate Editor: Eric Hunter×
Article Information
Speech, Voice & Prosody / Speech / Research Articles
Research Article   |   October 01, 2016
Epidemiology of Vocal Health in Young Adults Attending College in the United States
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, October 2016, Vol. 59, 973-993. doi:10.1044/2016_JSLHR-S-15-0214
History: Received June 12, 2015 , Revised December 28, 2015 , Accepted February 19, 2016
 
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, October 2016, Vol. 59, 973-993. doi:10.1044/2016_JSLHR-S-15-0214
History: Received June 12, 2015; Revised December 28, 2015; Accepted February 19, 2016

Purpose The purpose of this study was to document typical vocal health characteristics (including voice-related activities, behaviors, and symptomatology) of young adults attending college and to determine lifetime and point prevalence rates of voice disorders.

Method Undergraduates at University of Wisconsin–Madison completed an anonymous online survey detailing vocal use, symptomatology, impact, sociodemographics, and voice-related quality of life. Univariate analyses and multivariate regression models isolated risk factors for lifetime and point prevalence rates of a voice disorder.

Results Vocal health and associated factors were analyzed for 652 students (predominantly 18–25 years of age). Lifetime prevalence rate of a voice disorder was 33.9% (point prevalence = 4.45%). Change in voice function (odds ratio [OR] = 2.77), seasonal or chronic postnasal drip (OR = 2.11), hoarseness (OR = 2.08), and restrictions to social activity (OR = 2.07; all p < .05) were identified as the strongest predictors of disorder. A total of 46% of students reported some form of voice problem in the past year, most frequently lasting between 1 and 6 days (39%). Voice usage in social and work settings exceeded demands in the classroom.

Conclusions Young adults in college frequently experience disturbances to vocal health; however, this is not usually perceived to interfere with communication. Relative weighting of risk factors appears to differ from older adults, highlighting the need for individualized evaluation and management, with reference to age-appropriate normative reference points.

Acknowledgments
This research was supported by funding from the Diane M. Bless Endowed Chair in Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery and NIH R01 4336, 12773 and 13508. We thank Glen Leverson, biostatistician in the School of Medicine and Public Health at University of Wisconsin–Madison, for his invaluable statistical advice.
Order a Subscription
Pay Per View
Entire Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research content & archive
24-hour access
This Article
24-hour access