Objective speech outcomes after surgical treatment for oral cancer: An acoustic analysis of a spontaneous speech corpus containing 32.850 tokens

Thomas B. Tienkamp*, Rob J.J.H. van Son, Bence Mark Halpern

*Corresponding author for this work

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Introduction: Surgical treatment of oral cancer leads to lasting changes of the vocal tract and individuals treated for oral cancer (ITFOC) often experience speech problems. The purpose of this study was to analyse the acoustic properties of the spontaneous speech of individuals who were surgically treated for oral cancer. It was investigated (1) how key spectral measures of articulation change post-treatment; (2) whether changes are more related to target manner or place of articulation; and (3) how spectral measures develop at various time points following treatment.

Method: A corpus consisting of 32.850 tokens was constructed by manually segmenting the speech of five (four female - one male) American English speaking ITFOC. General acoustic characteristics (duration and spectral tilt), plosives (burst frequency), fricatives (centre of gravity and spectral skewness), and vowels (F1 and F2) were analysed using linear mixed effects regression and compared to control speech. Moreover, a within speaker analysis was performed for speakers with multiple recordings.

Results: Manner of articulation is more predictive of post-treatment changes than place of articulation. Compared to controls, ITFOC produced the fricatives /f, v, θ, ð, s, z, ʃ, ʒ/ with a lower centre of gravity while no differences were found in plosives and vowels. Longitudinal analyses show high within-speaker variation, but general improvements one-year post-treatment.

Conclusions: Surgical oral cancer treatment changes the spectral properties of speech. Fricatives with varying manner of articulations were distorted, suggesting that manner of articulation is more predictive than place of articulation in identifying general problem areas for ITFOC.
Original languageEnglish
Article number106292
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Communication Disorders
Publication statusPublished - Jan-2023

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