The voice handicap index as a tool for assessment of the biopsychosocial impact of voice problems

K Maertens, F I C R S de Jong
B-ENT 2007, 3 (2): 61-6

BACKGROUND: Objective measurements do not evaluate the biopsychosocial impact of a voice disorder. The Voice Handicap Index (VHI) measures the influence of voice problems on a patient's quality of life.

OBJECTIVE: To investigate if the VHI can monitor biopsychosocial impact of voice disorders and to provide a frame of reference for use of the VHI in general ENT practice.

METHODS: VHI scores and subscores were analysed in 272 controls, 237 patients with initial voice complaints ("new patients") and 92 patients before and after microsurgery ("operated patients").

RESULTS: The VHI scores of the controls were not normally distributed (Kolmogorov-Smirnov test: < .001). The total VHI scores for the 5th, 10th, 25th, 50th, 75th, 90th and 95th percentiles were, respectively, 0.0, 0.0, 2.0, 6.0, 12.0, 23.0 and 32.8. In the controls, there was not a significant effect of gender on either VHI totals or subscores (p = 0.060-0.858). In the "new patients" group, males scored significantly higher on the functional subscore (p = 0.004). There was a very weak negative correlation between age and VHI totals and subscores in controls (correlation coefficient: -0.092 to -0.187). There was a significant difference in VHI totals and subscores between subjects with and without voice complaints (p < 0.001). In the patient group, VHI scores of professional voice users (PVUs) were not significantly different from those of non-PVUs (p = 0.112-0.753). In controls, a significantly higher score was found for PVUs in the P domain of the VHI (p = 0.017). After microsurgical treatment, 82.0% of patients had a lower total VHI score, and 93.3% reported an improvement in voice. In the patient group, the median postoperative VHI score was almost halved.

CONCLUSION: Gender and profession did not have a significant influence on the total VHI score. There was a weak tendency for VHI to decrease with age. The VHI is a useful instrument for quantifying the biopsychosocial impact of a voice disorder, and is able to monitor changes in self-perception of voice handicap after treatment.

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