Can upper airway surgeries like tonsillectomy or septoplasty really modify the anatomy of the vocal tract enough to change acoustic parameters of the voice? A study at the University of Madrid and Johns Hopkins University (Hernández-García E, et al., J Craniofac Surg. 2021 Mar-Apr 01;32(2):660-663. doi: 10.1097/SCS.0000000000007175) says yes.
This study was performed between January 2019 and June 2019, on 84 patients. Thirty-one underwent septoplasty, 26 had tonsillectomies, and 27 served as controls. Demographic data and GRBAS evaluation were statistically evaluated. Evaluations were made before surgery, 2 weeks after surgery, and 3 months later. To establish equal error rate, recordings of patients' voices were made with successive acoustic analyses, and programmed identification of the speaker was verified through machine learning systems.
A significant variance was observed in GRBAS, after surgery. Regarding acoustic parameters, a greater change was observed in the fundamental frequency at 2 weeks after surgery in the tonsillectomy group. Formants (F1-F3) and antiformants (AntiF1-AntiF3) changed in septoplasty group, though not in tonsillectomy and control groups, at 3 months. Greater error in recognition was observed in the tonsillectomy group at 2 weeks, coinciding with the results obtained in the rest of the parameters studied.
Results thus suggest that upper airway surgery can produce modifications in the vocal tract affecting GRBAS, and acoustic parameters, including formants and antiformants, producing a measurable effect on verification of the speaker through the speech.
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