Singing voice handicap and videostrobolaryngoscopy in healthy professional singers

Liliana Castelblanco, Michael Habib, Daniel J Stein, André de Quadros, Seth M Cohen, Jacob Pieter Noordzij
Journal of Voice: Official Journal of the Voice Foundation 2014, 28 (5): 608-13

OBJECTIVES: This study correlates the Singing Voice Handicap Index (SVHI) scores with videostrobolaryngoscopy in healthy professional singers as a measure of self-perceived vocal health versus actual pathology seen on examination. The objective was to measure the strength of self-assessment among professional singers and determine if there is a benefit of combining SVHI and videostrobolaryngoscopy for routine assessment of singers without an obvious singing voice problem.

STUDY DESIGN: Prospective cross-sectional study.

METHODS: Forty-seven singers were included in the study. Singers produced spoken and sung pitches during videostrobolaryngoscopy. Examinations were blindly rated by two independent fellowship-trained laryngologists who assessed vocal fold appearance and function. The correlation between SVHI scores and total pathologic findings seen on videostrobolaryngoscopy was analyzed using linear regression and serial t tests.

RESULTS: SVHI scores (mean of 22.45/144) were as expected for healthy singers. However, although all singers self-identified as healthy, laryngeal abnormalities were relatively common. The interrater reliability of total pathologic findings between two laryngologists was 71% (P = 0.006). Linear regression found no significant correlation (P = 0.9602) between SVHI scores and videostrobolaryngoscopy findings.

CONCLUSION: Greater than expected laryngeal pathology was seen in these professional singers, who identified themselves as healthy, which possibly indicates a minimal impact on their singing voice and/or perception of vocal health. These findings demonstrate that laryngeal appearance alone does not dictate nor fully explain the sound or apparent health of a professional singer. Sustaining good vocal health is complex, and even experienced singers may not reliably assess the presence of pathology.

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