A Randomized Controlled Trial of Two Semi-Occluded Vocal Tract Voice Therapy Protocols

Mara R Kapsner-Smith, Eric J Hunter, Kimberly Kirkham, Karin Cox, Ingo R Titze
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research: JSLHR 2015, 58 (3): 535-49

PURPOSE: Although there is a long history of use of semi-occluded vocal tract gestures in voice therapy, including phonation through thin tubes or straws, the efficacy of phonation through tubes has not been established. This study compares results from a therapy program on the basis of phonation through a flow-resistant tube (FRT) with Vocal Function Exercises (VFE), an established set of exercises that utilize oral semi-occlusions.

METHOD: Twenty subjects (16 women, 4 men) with dysphonia and/or vocal fatigue were randomly assigned to 1 of 4 treatment conditions: (a) immediate FRT therapy, (b) immediate VFE therapy, (c) delayed FRT therapy, or (d) delayed VFE therapy. Subjects receiving delayed therapy served as a no-treatment control group.

RESULTS: Voice Handicap Index (Jacobson et al., 1997) scores showed significant improvement for both treatment groups relative to the no-treatment group. Comparison of the effect sizes suggests FRT therapy is noninferior to VFE in terms of reduction in Voice Handicap Index scores. Significant reductions in Roughness on the Consensus Auditory-Perceptual Evaluation of Voice (Kempster, Gerratt, Verdolini Abbott, Barkmeier-Kraemer, & Hillman, 2009) were found for the FRT subjects, with no other significant voice quality findings.

CONCLUSIONS: VFE and FRT therapy may improve voice quality of life in some individuals with dysphonia. FRT therapy was noninferior to VFE in improving voice quality of life in this study.

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