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Your Healthy Family: Can doctors diagnose disease using voice?

Researchers studying if doctors can diagnose diseases using voice
Posted at 7:59 AM, Dec 23, 2022
and last updated 2022-12-23 07:59:05-05

What if doctors could diagnose diseases just by listening to someone's voice? Researchers at University of South Florida in Tampa are working on doing this using artificial intelligence.

"We know that voice has been linked to diseases for a long time," Dr. Yael Bensoussan, the Director of the USF Health Voice Center in Tampa, said.

A new study led by USF Health, Dr. Bensoussan, and Cornell Medicine uses the human voice to diagnose and treat diseases and mood disorders, like depression.

"We know, for example, when we talk about neurological disease, people that have strokes, the way they speak changes, the articulation doesn’t work as much as before,” Dr. Bensoussan said.

She said similar voice changes happen when someone has cancer.

“People who have Alzheimer’s, the content of their speech changes. People who have Parkinson’s, the way they talk can be slower, can be lower," she said.

One of the goals is demonstrating that physicians can use the small changes in a patient’s voice to diagnose diseases, instead of a CT scan or blood test, for example. This means you could spend less money at the doctor’s office.

“I think voice as a biomarker is the cheapest biomarker that exists. So when we think about different biomarkers, like genetic information, it’s something where we have to take blood from people, we have to ask them to do swabs, they’re very resource intensive to analyze. It usually costs about $1,000 just to analyze the samples,” Dr. Bensoussan said.

She said with voice, patients can easily just record theirs and send it to their doctor.

“You can do it out of your cellphone, you can do it out of remote communities. You don’t necessarily have to be in a big center with a lot of resources,” she said.

Researchers are also creating a database of patient voices to teach artificial intelligence programs what to listen for, so even just tiny differences can warn of serious health conditions.

“Once we’re able to prove that there’s really a link with voice and diseases, and it’s been proven at a smaller level, I think it’s really going to change the way we help people,” Dr. Bensoussan said.