Relationship between patient-perceived vocal handicap and clinician-rated level of vocal dysfunction

Lesley F Childs, Clifford Bielinski, Laura Toles, Amy Hamilton, Janis Deane, Ted Mau
Laryngoscope 2015, 125 (1): 180-5

OBJECTIVES/HYPOTHESIS: The relationship between patient-reported vocal handicap and clinician-rated measures of vocal dysfunction is not understood. This study aimed to determine if a correlation exists between the Voice Handicap Index-10 (VHI-10) and the Voice Functional Communication Measure rating in the National Outcomes Measurement System (NOMS).

STUDY DESIGN: Retrospective case series.

METHODS: Four hundred and nine voice evaluations over 12 months at a tertiary voice center were reviewed. The VHI-10 and NOMS scores, diagnoses, and potential comorbid factors were collected and analyzed.

RESULTS: For the study population as a whole, there was a moderate negative correlation between the NOMS rating and the VHI-10 (Pearson r = -0.57). However, for a given NOMS level, there could be considerable spread in the VHI-10. In addition, as the NOMS decreased stepwise below level 4, there was a corresponding increase in the VHI-10. However, a similar trend in VHI-10 was not observed for NOMS above level 4, indicating the NOMS versus VHI-10 correlation was not linear. Among diagnostic groups, the strongest correlation was found for subjects with functional dysphonia. The NOMS versus VHI-10 correlation was not affected by gender or the coexistence of a psychiatric diagnosis.

CONCLUSIONS: A simple relationship between VHI-10 and NOMS rating does not exist. Patients with mild vocal dysfunction have a less direct relationship between their NOMS ratings and the VHI-10. These findings provide insight into the interpretation of patient-perceived and clinician-rated measures of vocal function and may allow for better management of expectations and patient counseling in the treatment of voice disorders.

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