Due to the phenomenon of the “higher pitched voice” described in the literature, the question arose in Katharina Böhm’s mind whether the voice was altered in OI. The aim of her study was to find out by means of voice analyses whether there are pathological changes in the voice sound in people with OI. We interviewed her for the OIFE Magazine.

Who are you & what is your relationship to OI?Portrait of Katharina

My name is Katharina Böhm, I am 25 years old and have studied speech therapy. Since I have OI type 1 myself, I have always had a connection to the subject.

Tell us about your project!

I wrote this thesis as part of my bachelor’s degree in speech therapy at the OTH Regensburg in Bavaria, Germany. I did the research on my own and my examiner Prof. Dr. Norina Lauer was available to help me with any queries.

Most of the research took place within the framework of two events of the German Society for OI (DOIG). In the quantitative study, the voice function of people with OI was recorded on the basis of two voice recordings with the computer program Praat. The Acoustic Voice Quality Index (AVQI; version 03.01) was calculated and numerous other parameters such as pitch, loudness and exhalation duration were examined. Socio-demographic and health data as well as personal experiences with and satisfaction with one’s own voice were recorded by means of short questionnaires.

I initially financed the trips myself and was graciously given a large grant at the end to cover the costs of traveling through Germany. I was also able to borrow a microphone for the voice recordings from the OTH Regensburg.

What was your research project about?Graphic loudness

Due to the phenomenon of the “higher pitched voice” described in the literature, the question arose in my mind whether the voice is altered in OI. The aim of this study was to find out by means of voice analyses whether there are pathological changes in the voice sound in people with OI. In addition, the subjective assessment of the test persons was to determine whether and why there might be suffering pressure in order to uncover a possible need for action in the field of speech therapy and to enable better care. The target group were all adults with OI from Germany.

What were your most interesting findings?

Forty-seven individuals with OI from Germany with a height between 80 cm and 174 cm (M = 131.36 cm, SD = 26.55) who were over 18 years of age were studied. Scoliosis was present in 85% of the respondents. 36 affected individuals (n = 47) exceeded the AVQI (v03.01) cut-off value of 1.85. There was also an increase in speaking voice pitch in males (M = 128 Hz, SD = 18.79), whereas females were within the normal range (M = 207.15 Hz, SD = 23.34). The mean speech loudness of the affected subjects was significantly elevated at 70.73 dB (SD = 3.50).

No major differences were shown between the experienced positive and negative feedback on one’s own voice. Exhalation duration decreased significantly the more severe the scoliosis, the smaller the body size, and the more frequently a wheelchair was used. Men with elevated voice experienced significantly fewer positive experiences related to their voice (p = .007). Satisfaction with their own voice was in the upper third, with some outliers in the negative direction.

Any surprising findings?

I found it exciting that the personal experiences were so different. Some people suffer a lot, others are very happy with their voice.

Graphic happiness with own voice

What is the most important take home message for clinical work?

A speech therapy as well as respiratory therapy treatment could support some affected individuals with significant distress. Further research, especially a close examination of the anatomical conditions, with regards to an effective treatment might be useful.

Katharina Holding her diplomaWere patients/patient organizations involved? How?

The German Society for Osteogenesis Imperfecta (DOIG) was involved because I know a lot of people with OI through my own membership and was able to contact them. In addition, I was given the opportunity to examine all people with Ol who agreed to participate in the study at two meetings. I was able to examine the OI people at these meetings and visit some of them on a tour through Germany and make voice recordings at home. For this opportunity and all who supported me, again a big thank you!

Any messages for the readers of OIFE Magazine?

Now I would be interested to know if you have also noticed this phenomenon. Are you satisfied with your voice, or would you like to see more research in this area? You are welcome to write me your thoughts via Email. I will be writing my master’s thesis in a few years, and hopefully I could continue to write and research in this area if you are interested. For this, feedback on my study would be very helpful.

This article was first published in OIFE Magazine 4-2023.