Original Research

Reflux symptoms and vocal characteristics in adults with non-organic voice disorders

Nyasa E. Groenewald, Maria du Toit, Marien A. Graham, Carl Swanepoel, Giselle Maartens, Jeannie van der Linde
South African Journal of Communication Disorders | Vol 69, No 1 | a935 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajcd.v69i1.935 | © 2022 Nyasa E. Groenewald, Maria du Toit, Marien A. Graham, Carl Swanepoel, Giselle Maartens, Jeannie van der Linde | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 06 April 2022 | Published: 26 October 2022

About the author(s)

Nyasa E. Groenewald, Department of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology, Faculty of Humanities, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa
Maria du Toit, Department of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology, Faculty of Humanities, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa
Marien A. Graham, Department of Science, Mathematics and Technology Education, Faculty of Education, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa
Carl Swanepoel, LCM Voice Clinic, Medical Centre, Groenkloof Life Hospital, Pretoria, South Africa
Giselle Maartens, LCM Voice Clinic, Medical Centre, Groenkloof Life Hospital, Pretoria, South Africa
Jeannie van der Linde, Department of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology, Faculty of Humanities, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa


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Abstract

Background: Laryngopharyngeal reflux (LPR) is prevalent and can lead to voice disorders, but its diagnosis is difficult, because of limited correlations between clinical symptoms and organic pathology. Various tools and methods have been explored to aid a diagnosis of LPR.

Objective: To investigate associations between reflux symptoms, acoustic-, perceptual-, and physical vocal characteristics, glottal function index (GFI), and vocal handicap index (VHI) in adults with non-organic voice disorders.

Methods: Data of 51 adults with non-organic voice disorders were collected, using a retrospective cohort explorative research design, at a private ear, nose and throat specialist practice in Gauteng, South Africa. Quantitative outcomes were compared between reflux symptom index (RSI), acoustic characteristics (jitter, shimmer and fundamental frequency [F0]), maximum phonation time, perceptual- (GRBASI) and physical vocal characteristics, GFI and VHI.

Results: The RSI showed positive fair correlations against GFI, VHIP and caffeine intake, indicating an increase in reflux symptoms with higher scores on the various measures. Moderate correlations were also found between GFI and VHIP, grade of hoarseness and jitter, strain and VHIP, strain and VHI total (VHIT) and between Asthenia and jitter. Very strong correlations were found within the various subsections of the VHI as well as between jitter and shimmer and between F0-male and physical symptoms of the VHI (VHIP).

Conclusion: Results indicated associations between reflux symptoms, vocal characteristics, the GFI and the VHI. Based on the correlations found these tools used in conjunction could improve clinical diagnosis of LPR. Implications of these findings are promising, but further research is recommended.

Contribution: This study contributes to the body of knowledge to support the accurate clinical diagnosis of LPR using subjective measures to determine LPR symptoms, as well as acoustic analysis.


Keywords

acoustic characteristics; laryngopharyngeal reflux; RSI, vocal characteristics; VHI; voice disorders

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