Date of Graduation

5-2019

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Communication Disorders (MS)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

Rehabilitation, Human Resources and Communication Disorders

Advisor

Lisa Bowers

Committee Member

Andrew Bowers

Second Committee Member

Fran Hagstrom

Keywords

LSVT®, Parkinson’s Disease, singing, speech therapy

Abstract

Parkinson’s Disease is a common neurodegenerative disease affecting one’s ability to hone and refine volitional movement. Many with Parkinson’s report significant effects on voice and communication. Speech-language pathologists have long targeted the achievement of increased vocal volume through intensive voice therapy, with the most common program being Lee Silverman Voice Treatment® (LSVT®) (Ramig et al., 1994). While LSVT® is the most prominent type of voice therapy for individuals with Parkinson’s, other researchers have begun investigating therapeutic singing because of the similar functions it employs (e.g., increased breath support, utilization of entire vocal range).

The current project is a retrospective, longitudinal study that aims to observe effects of singing in conjunction with LSVT®. Researchers followed a trained singer with Parkinson’s disease who underwent LSVT® for four years to observe vocal performance across time. First, this study aimed to identify if there is a relationship between frequency of singing and vocal performance. Secondly, because Parkinson’s disease is neurodegenerative and symptoms worsen over time, this study charted vocal progress and identified any influencing factors that would increase or decrease vocal performance and intelligibility. Researchers measured vocal intensity and pitch ranges at monthly intervals while also collecting subjective data including report of any health or social changes.

Results showed frequency of proper singing affected maintenance and even improvement of vocal performance in intensity and pitch ranges and intelligibility, though not always consistent. Inversely, as expected, a decline in mobility, overall health, and medication was shown to negatively affect vocal performance. This study is an introductory look into how vocal performance and intelligibility are affected by various factors. Thus, this project will inform further research investigating appropriate voice treatment for individuals with Parkinson’s Disease.

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