Your voice and the way you speak dictate how you communicate with the world, but this information can also contain clues linked to your health. According to a recent NPR article, the National Institutes of Health is funding a research project to gather voice data that artificial intelligence can use to diagnose people based on how they speak. At the helm of the project is Dr. Yael Bensoussan, the director of the University of South Florida’s Health Voice Center.
Dr. Bensoussan says that there are a number of factors in the way you speak that are linked to health including vocal cord vibrations and breathing patterns. For example, slurring is a sign of a stroke, while speaking low and slowly could be linked to Parkinson’s disease. Her team is starting by collecting recordings of people with conditions in five disorder areas: neurological, voice, mood, respiratory, and pediatric (i.e. autism and speech delays). Their hope is to develop an app to bring access to rural or underserved areas that can help general practitioners refer patients to specialists. The long term goal is for virtual assistants such as Siri or Alexa to detect voice changes and advise people to seek medical attention.