Effects of group speech treatment via telehealth on acoustic measures and self-perception of voice in Parkinson’s Disease

Christa Matthew, Gemma Moya-Gale

Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a neurodegenerative disease that damages dopaminergic neurons in
the substantia nigra of the brain. It has motor and nonmotor symptoms. Motor symptoms include
slowness of movement, rigidity, tremors, postural instability and speech changes. Speech changes are one of the symptoms that will be focused on within this study. Hypokinetic dysarthria is a motor speech
disorder caused by an impairment in the control circuit of the basal ganglia. Monotonicity, a breathy
voice, a varied speaking rate, and a lowered volume are all signs of this disorder.
Due to COVID-19, many individuals with PD did not have many options when receiving speech
treatment. In order to isolate but still communicate with others at a safe distance, online group speech
therapy became a viable option. However, there is not much research when it comes to group speech
therapy, and specifically, online group speech therapy. Speech for PD is a group speech therapy program at Long Island University (LIU)- Brooklyn that addresses phonation tasks, choral reading, respiratory exercises and cognitive-linguistic exercises to improve intelligibility and social involvement.
This study addresses how acoustic measures and self-perceptions of voice in people with PD may
change as a result of online group speech therapy. For the current study, 10 participants from LIU
Brooklyn’s Speech for PD program were recruited. Assessments were complete before and after the
therapy program. Measures of phonation time, utterance length, speech rate, fundamental frequency and the Voice Handicap Index (VHI) were analyzed. Utterance length, fundamental frequency and the
functional subscale of the VHI significantly changed after therapy. These findings suggest modest
improvement of speech using online group speech therapy.