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The Sound Of Your Voice Could Help Doctors Diagnose Disease, Research Finds

The Sound Of Your Voice Could Help Doctors Diagnose Disease, Research Finds

In the digital age, we have become increasingly aware of our own health and the core symptoms that can be indicative of illness. This has made it far easier for people recognise when they are unwell, increasing their chances of successfully treating ailments and returning to full health over time.

A similar trend has driven preventative medicine throughout the age, as innovation and research have enabled healthcare service providers to improve diagnostics and pre-treatment options rather than focusing solely on reactive measures. This was seen during the recent outbreak of the Zika virus in South America, where a novel vaccine candidate was quickly presented to protect citizens in affected areas.

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Why the Sound of your Voice is now a key Diagnostic Tool

In terms of diagnostics, technology has also enabled doctors to improve their accuracy while determining new methods of identifying specific illnesses. Most recently, employees at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed an innovation that has introduced a new diagnostic metric, which is the sound of each individual patient’s voice. This hardware, which is still under development, analyses voices according to tone and the speed at which words and sentences are formed.

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By analysing various aspects of a patient’s voice, doctors are able to determine subtle vocal tics that will enable them to diagnose illnesses at a very early stage. This includes everything from mental health issues such as depression to respiratory disorders, as healthcare professionals search for time-dependent variations in pitch and subtle shifts in pace. In laymen terms, this technology builds on accepted knowledge pertaining to the links between voice patterns and certain illnesses (such as the fact that those with depression may occasionally speak with a flatter tone) to drive informed, accurate and insightful diagnostics.

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The hardware has been tested extensively across several groups of subjects, which were required to read standard, sample paragraphs. The technology breaks these statements down into individual components called phonemes, known by linguistic experts as the building blocks of language. These phonemes are then analysed using proprietary algorithms, highlighting potential issues and singling out specific symptoms. These can relate to numerous ailments, from mild traumatic brain disease to dementia and Parkinson’s disease.

Is this just the beginning for voice analysis in Diagnostics?

The research team working on this technology are not alone in their quest, with IMB currently teaming its own, Watson super-computer with academic research teams to identify potential psychological issues in subjects using speech patterns. A Berlin-based company has also worked on developing hardware that can diagnose ADHD patients with voice recordings, while apps are also being developed across the globe base on tone and speech patterns. Make no mistake; however, the research being conducted at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is at an advanced stage while the current hardware requires only a minute of speech to identify the vocal biomarkers that represent symptoms of mental and physical illness.

What is more, this may be just the tip of the iceberg for the utilisation of tone and speech patterns, particularly as the voice remains a complex and scarcely understood aspects of our physiology. With huge data sets hidden within the composition of our voice, this latest innovation may herald a new dawn in the field of diagnostics and preventative care, particularly in relation to ailments that are chronically under-diagnosed and difficult to identify. This includes complex mood disorders and mild cases of depression, where there remains a lack of easily distinguishable symptoms and objective screening. Ultimately, this technology may eradicate these issues in some cases, while also advancing to the point where it is accessible to laymen through a downloadable mobile application.

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Last Updated on March 13, 2019

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

1. Work on the small tasks.

When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

2. Take a break from your work desk.

Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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3. Upgrade yourself

Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

4. Talk to a friend.

Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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6. Paint a vision to work towards.

If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

7. Read a book (or blog).

The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

8. Have a quick nap.

If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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9. Remember why you are doing this.

Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

10. Find some competition.

Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

11. Go exercise.

Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

12. Take a good break.

Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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