The Patient Experience: The Relationship Between Vocal Handicap, Congruency, Perceived Present Control, and Mood Across Four Voice Disorders


The potential for negative sequalae in psychosocial well-being presents clinical importance to the assessment of voice disorders. Despite the impairment voice disorders cause in the psychosocial domain, the clinical assessment of these disorders relies heavily on visual perceptual judgments of the larynx, audio-perceptual, as well as acoustic and aerodynamic measures. While these measures aid in accurate diagnosis and are necessary for standard of care, they present little insight into the patient experience of having a voice disorder. Design: Retrospective between-subject, non-experimental design. Methods: Data from 335 patients from the University of Pittsburgh Voice Center were collected from scores of the Voice Handicap Index-10 (VHI-10) and two recent questionnaires, the Voice Present Perceived Control scale (VPPC), and the Vocal Congruency Scale (VCS). Examining how these voice-specific scales related to three mental health screeners for stress (Perceived Stress Scale-4), anxiety (Generalized Anxiety Disorder-7) and depression (Patient Health Questionnaire-9) were also examined. Patient diagnoses included primary muscle tension dysphonia (pMTD), unilateral vocal fold paralysis (UVFP), vocal fold atrophy, and mid membranous vocal fold lesions. Results: There were significant differences in scores from the voice-specific scales between diagnostic groups with UVFP being the highest (worst) in VHI-10 and UVFP being the lowest (worst) in VCS compared to healthy controls. There was no significant difference in VPPC scores between diagnostic groups. Results showed statistically significant inverse relationships between the VHI-10 and the VPPC and between the VHI-10 and VCS for all diagnostic groups. A significant direct relationship was found between the VPPC and the VCS for patients diagnosed with MTD, UVFP and Lesions. In sum, patients with UVFP presented with the most frequent and sometimes strongest relationships between voice and mental health measures. Discussion: This study marks an initial investigation into the nuanced patient experience of having a voice disorder. Three theoretically unrelated voice constructs: handicap, perceived control, and sense of self, were measured via self-report. Results from this study describe the patient experience correlating to these constructs with weak correlations to stress, anxiety, and depression. Findings also clearly suggest that patient experience varies among diagnostic groups, as well as varying constructs. Measures of multiple constructs of patient perception provide valuable insight into a patient's experience of their voice disorder, guidance on the direction of voice treatment, and justification for such treatments.

Publication Title

Journal of Voice