Study Rationale: Most people with Parkinson’s disease (PD) develop voice and speech problems at some point during the course of the disease. Such problems, collectively known as the motor speech disorder of hypokinetic dysarthria, can lead to a significant decrease in the ability to be understood and to communicate effectively with others. Additionally, sensory deficits are also common in people with PD, which may result in problems with voice self-perception. With this clinical trial, we will implement Understand Me for Life, a web-based app that provides noise-augmented feedback to improve speakers’ intelligibility over the course of a month-long treatment.
Hypothesis: We hypothesize that our app will increase speech intelligibility in people with PD, especially in noisy environments, and improve their communicative participation with others.
Study Design: Over three years, we will conduct a randomized controlled trial in which a group of 21 speakers with PD will self-administer, under the weekly supervision of a speech-language therapist, a one-month treatment using Understand Me for Life (developed with support from MJFF). The app embeds a speaker’s recorded sentences in real-life noise and provides feedback in the form of an intelligibility score (percentage of words understood in each sentence), a written transcript and an audio file of the noise-embedded recording. A second group of 21 speakers with PD will receive deferred treatment to test the initial efficacy of the app.
Impact on Diagnosis/Treatment of Parkinson’s disease: Our project represents the first study of a self-administered, speech-treatment app that provides feedback on the intelligibility of speech in background noise. Our mission is to empower speakers with PD to improve their intelligibility from the comfort of their homes, increasing communicative participation and quality of life.
Next Steps for Development: Results from this clinical trial will allow our team to develop and submit a competitive NIH R01 grant to implement this AI-assisted treatment approach nationally.