Approximately 90% of people with Parkinson’s develop speech and language problems over the course of the disease, and more than half of these speakers experience problems with intelligibility (their ability to be understood). This reduced ability to effectively communicate, especially in noisy environments, can cause frustration and result in social withdrawal and isolation. We will develop an app to help speakers with Parkinson’s monitor their speech intelligibility changes over time.
We expect this app will help people with Parkinson’s self-monitor their voice changes over time from their homes.
The Understand Me for Life app will be designed to target intelligibility problems in Parkinson’s disease. A total of 10 speakers will participate in the initial phase of the study. Participants will read aloud provided sentences using their typical voice. The app will record the voice and embed the recording into multi-talker babble. This is meant to simulate communicative environments with background talkers, which are frequently experienced by listeners in daily life. The app will then generate an intelligibility score of each sentence in noise, which will represent the number of words correctly understood by the software. A group of listeners will manually transcribe the speaker’s sentences as well to establish a correlation between the software’s results and the manual transcription. The app will be used with a new set of speakers and listeners to further explore its efficacy.
Impact on Diagnosis/Treatment of Parkinson’s Disease:
With this app, we expect that participants will be able to immediately receive feedback on how well they are understood. And we believe this technology will facilitate their self-monitoring skills over time when not using the app. That awareness could lead participants to speak more loudly and clearly or to pursue treatment strategies toward better speech. Improved ability to communicate and connect could help improve quality of life and avoid social isolation, which can exacerbate other Parkinson’s symptoms.
Next Steps for Development:
When efficacy of the Understand Me for Life app is established, we will conduct a treatment study to examine whether people with Parkinson’s disease can improve their intelligibility when using the app during daily practice at home.