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The electrolarynx (EL) voice prosthesis is widely used, but suffers from the inconvenience of requiring manual control. Therefore, a hands-free EL triggered by neck muscle electromyographic (EMG) activity was developed (EMG-EL). Signal processing circuitry in a belt-mounted control unit transforms EMG activity into control signals for initiation and termination of voicing. These control signals are then fed to an EL held against the neck by an inconspicuous brace. Performance of the EMG-EL was evaluated by comparison to normal voice, manual EL voice, and tracheo-esophageal (TE) voice in a series of reaction time experiments in seven normal subjects and one laryngectomy patient. The normal subjects produced voice initiation with the EMG-EL that was as fast as both normal voice and the manual EL. The laryngectomy subject produced voice initiation that was slower than with the manual EL, but faster than with TE voice. Voice termination with the EMG-EL was slower than normal voice for the normal subjects, but not significantly different than with the manual EL. The laryngectomy subject produced voice termination with the EMG-EL that was slower than with TE or manual EL. The EMG-EL threshold was set at 10% of the range of vocal-related EMG activity above baseline. Simulations of EMG-EL behavior showed that the 10% threshold was not significantly different from the optimum threshold produced through the process of error minimization. The EMG-EL voice reaction time appears to be adequate for use in a day-to-day conversation.
Date of Publication: Feb. 2004