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Voice therapy devices for Parkinson’s disease – Mark Rochman

Date published: 08/08/18

Mark Rochman Voice Therapy Summer Project Blog

User interface for a voice therapy biofeedback device for clients with Parkinson’s disease

  • Name: Mark Rochman
  • Current Organisation: Leeds Beckett University

In May, Translate opened its summer student project scheme to support small medical technology development projects in the Leeds City Region. The scheme proved to be a massive success and 26 unique projects were funded. Learn more about their work in this blog.

My name is Mark Rochman and I am interested in Acoustical Sciences and Audio Software Engineering.  I have recently been awarded a First Class Bachelor’s degree in Music Technology at Leeds Beckett University.  My previous research has been primarily focussed around Acoustics: more specifically the standardised measurement and characterisation of acoustical diffusers, and the measurement of performance and listening rooms for their acoustical attributes.

Prior to graduating, I was approached by senior lecturer in Acoustical Sciences Joy Tasker, who was working with Naomi de Graff and Anne Hurren, senior lecturers in Speech and Language Sciences, to help develop software for use by Speech & Language Therapists for patients with Parkinson’s Disease (PD).  They had identified a promising area of research and development around assessment and voice therapy for patients with PD, which require further exploration.

The current National Institute of Clinical Effectiveness (N.I.C.E.) recommend a particular therapy programme for people with PD. This must be delivered intensively, which not all patients are able to commit to, and licensing restrictions prevent university tutors from training their students in this technique.  Portable medical devices, and medical monitoring software for home use are becoming more commonplace in today’s modern world.  The aims of this project are to create software and protocols which will facilitate the remote delivery of speech / voice therapy to patients’ homes, and create portable therapy biofeedback devices to unobtrusively monitor and display a patient’s speech level in their daily lives, along with programmed “homework” exercises to help maintain gains made in therapy sessions.

My role within this project is to apply my knowledge of Acoustics and Software Engineering to build a user-friendly and easy to use system, which is fully calibrated to account for the user’s acoustic environment.  The impact a room’s acoustic can have on sound measurements is largely overlooked in this area of research, and this marriage of Speech and Language Sciences and Acoustical Sciences  could potentially have international significance.

With input from interviews with Speech and Language Therapists and patients with PD, we seek to identify and refine exactly what is be most desirable in our new software system.  The feedback thus far has been positive, and we aim to implement evidence based protocols with stakeholder contributions into our system, which all Speech and Language Therapists involved so far seem very excited about.