CURRENT PROJECTS
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TRANSGENDER HEALTH AND WELLNESS SURVEY

We aim to understand vocal congruence and wellness in people who identify as transgender and/or gender-diverse. Questions include demographic information, health status, and perspectives on personal safety, quality of life, and wellness. 

This survey was developed with support from the Next Lives Here Urban Health Pathways Seed Grant from the University of Cincinnati. 

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LARYNGEAL SENSITIVITY IN PEOPLE WITH VOICE AND UPPER AIRWAY DISORDERS

For a long time, researchers and clinicians have thought that sensory changes in the larynx contribute to the development and persistence of some voice and upper airway disorders. Often referred to as an "irritable larynx," little is known about how to best quantify laryngeal sensitivity and track improvements over therapy. We have several projects that are using engineering techniques to capture biomechanical measures and quantify disorder severity in people with chronic cough and vocal hyperfunction.

The American Speech-Language-Hearing Foundation New Investigators Research Grant is funding portions of this project. 

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VOICE FUNCTION IN INDIVIDUALS WHO USE E- CIGARETTES

Electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) have become increasingly popular among college-aged adults. Frequently referred to as "vaping" or "Juuling", electronic cigarette use is often believed to be a safe alternative to smoking conventional cigarettes. However, the use of electronic cigarettes is a growing health concern with reports of pulmonary complications, and in some cases, even death. Here, we are investigating how daily electronic cigarette use impacts voice and respiratory function. We suspect that individuals who use electronic cigarettes will exhibit voice problems at a higher rate than those who do not use tobacco products.

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VOCAL FATIGUE & RECOVERY

​Vocal fatigue is a common problem that almost everyone has experienced. Likely, the sensation of fatigue develops when someone is trying to compensate for an inefficient voice or for new vocal demands (i.e., like talking in a loud environment, or having to lecture in front of a class). In this study, we are interested in understanding how the respiratory and laryngeal systems interact with one another during acute fatigue and recovery from fatigue. Our multisystem analysis includes aging adults with and without pulmonary disease.

 

This project is supported by the NIH Loan Repayment Program for Clinical Research.

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GENDER DIVERSITY PROJECT

Transgender and gender diverse individuals often seek gender-affirming medical care, including voice therapy. The goal of voice therapy is to align the patient’s voice with their gender expression.
Our collaborative team of researchers and medical providers are working to understand how specific speech and voice characteristics influence gender-perception. Our team is also investigating how socioeconomic and psychosocial factors influence access to transgender voice care and vocal outcomes.

 

Students working on this project have been supported by UC's College of Allied Health Sciences as well as the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship through UC's College of Medicine. This work is also supported by the Next Lives Here, Urban Health Pathways Seed Grant.

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VOICE MONITORING APP (VoMo)

Patients with voice disorders can have multiple clinical visits each year in order to help monitor their therapeutic progress and/or deterioration. However, not all patients know when to schedule their next appointment or have access to a provider close by. At-home health monitoring could be beneficial to overcoming challenges related to therapy timing and healthcare access. Therefore, we are developing a Voice Monitoring (VoMo) app designed to include on-app acoustic processing, voice-related questionnaires, and appointment tracking to provide immediate feedback to patients and improve communication between patients and care providers.

This project is supported by the University Research Council Faculty Award. 

Interested in participating?
Please provide your information and which study you would be interested in taking part in and we will get back to you shortly.

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GRANT AWARDS

Next Lives Here, Urban Health Pathways Seed Grant, University of Cincinnati (03.28.2022–03.2023)

The relationship between vocal congruence and wellness in gender-diverse patients: Gathering evidence to increase access to medical care; PI: V. McKenna

The purpose of this grant is to investigate vocal dysphoria and its relationship with mental health, with the goal to provide quantitative evidence to refute insurance denials of gender-affirming care. $17,000

Advancing Academic-Research Career (AARC) Award, American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (08.16.2021–02.28.2023)

Advancing Culturally Responsive Practices in the Speech Sciences; PI: V. McKenna

Mentors: K. Washington, S. Boyce

The goal of this award is to support academic and research career advancement of junior scientists. The research aim is to develop culturally responsive practices in the acoustic analysis of bilingual children’s speech. The academic aim is to develop a culturally inclusive, case-based, flipped speech science course with the goal of helping CSD students link fundamental scientific concepts to clinical situations. $5,000

University Research Council (URC) Faculty Scholars Award, Office of Research, University of Cincinnati (04.01.2021–03.31.2023)

Developing a Voice Monitoring App for Chronic Voice Disorders; PI: V. McKenna

This grant aims to develop a vocal health monitoring appt that collects information on voice acoustics and vocal symptoms to share with care providers and provide biofeedback for patients. $24,000

New Investigators Research Grant , American Speech-Language-Hearing Foundation (12.01.2020–12.31.2021)

Sensorimotor reflexes in hyperfunctional voice disorders; PI: V. McKenna

This grant investigates sensorimotor reflexive laryngeal responses via elicitation of the reflexive cough and laryngeal adductory responses in those with and without voice disorders. $10,000

CCTST COVID-19 Critical Community Challenge Grant (NIH, NCATS, 2UL1TR001425-05A1) (07.15.2020–03.31.2021)

The impact of masks on speech acoustics and voice fatigue in healthcare workers: A pilot study during the COVID-19 pandemic; PI: V.McKenna

The aims of this grant were to i) evaluate the impact of face masks on speech acoustics and vocal fatigue in healthcare workers, ii) develop and disseminate free educational modules to address the identified communication and voice problems, and iii) understand the impact of educational modules on health behaviors in mask-wearing community workers. $31,228

Dudley Allen Research Fund, Sargent College, Boston University (06.01.2016–01.31.2017)

Physiological mechanisms of vocal effort; PI: V. McKenna

The aim of this grant was to investigate vocal effort using multiple simultaneous instrumental assessments, including high-speed videoendoscopy, surface electromyography, and neck-surface acceleration. $5,000

University Research Council Graduate Student Fellowship, Office of Research, University of Cincinnati (05.01.2014–07.31.2014)

Developing a biophysical marker for swallowing stability in children; PI: V. McKenna

The purpose of this study was to gather normative data on the respiratory-swallowing patterns of healthy children ages 4-11 years and examine maturation of the respiratory-swallow coordinative system. $3,000