Usually, your voice stays the same from puberty till you start aging. Your voice becomes deeper during puberty and stays that way until you start growing older and changes in your body affect it. Outside of these two events, scientists have discovered that your voice changing could indicate that a disease is present. In some situations, it could even point to a decline in a person’s mental health.
How Does Voice Work as a Marker for an Illness
It takes a lot of coordination between the lips, the brain, the lungs, the voice box, and the rest of the body to speak. If any of those components fail, the voice suffers.
The shifts won’t be immediately noticeable to you or people close to you. But on the other hand, voice analysis has yet to be routinely incorporated into patient care. Still, researchers believe it has the potential to help identify the need for medication attention at the early stage.
In many cases, all that’s needed is a smartphone—readily available, inexpensive, and usable by anyone—to enable remote voice data provision while sitting at home in your pajamas. The analysis also doesn’t need anything fancy or pricey, and you don’t need a lot of knowledge to get it. Additionally, you can collect several samples over time. This will give you a better understanding of your health than if you have just a single case sample.
Health Conditions Attached to Voice Change
This includes conditions like vocal fold paralysis, larynx cancer, and benign lesions around the larynx. These conditions generally cause hoarseness, breathiness or some voice irregularity which can last for weeks or months. However, there are situations when voice irregularity has nothing to do with laryngeal cancer.
Nevertheless, voice analysis has more benefits than downsides in this regard. For example, spasmodic dysphonia, a notoriously difficult to diagnose (sometimes, it can take more than four years to discover), can be easily found through voice analysis.
Neurodegenerative and Neurological Disorders
Changes in a person’s voice are often the first noticeable symptom of Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s, even before an official diagnosis. Parkinson’s can cause a subdued or monotone voice, while Alzheimer’s can alter the meaning of words, leading to more “umms” and a reluctance to use nouns in favor of pronouns.
How Accurate are Smartphones for Voice Analysis
Voice analysis through smartphones is only partially accurate, but it can be helpful. For example, an AI-powered app successfully diagnosed Parkinson’s disease from short voice recordings in a small 2022 Australian study.
The Parkinson’s Voice Initiative, which aimed to collect data on a global scale, ended up with about 17,000 samples from people in over 100 countries. The goal was to make a phone call to people suspected of having the condition and then identify them remotely. It was roughly 65% accurate in its predictions. Of course, there is still room for improvement before using this in a clinical setting, but it demonstrates the concept’s promise.