Effects of pain on vowel production – Towards a new way of pain-level estimation based on acoustic speech-signal analyses

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingArticle in proceedings


  • Melissa Salinas-Ranneberg
  • Oliver Niebuhr
  • Miriam Kunz
  • Stefan Lautenbacher
  • Plinio Barbosa

View graph of relations

The estimation of pain levels of patients requiring medical treatment is critical to successful pain management inter-ventions, the dosing of drugs, and the selection of appro-priate therapeutic measures. Current estimation methods are based on given sets of words like WILDA or stepped rating scales like the Wong-Baker faces. It is debatable whether such methods are targeted and fine-grained enough, and whether they can be consistently applied by patients, particularly across the different cultures and languages of a modern globalized society. Addressing these issues, we present an initial step into a line of research whose long-term goal is to automatically detect and measure – at a new level of detail and with ubiquitous technical devices – a patient's pain level from changes in the acoustic source and filter characteristics of the speech signal. Our first study focused on prosodic source characteristics and was based on 50 German speakers who immersed their hands in water tanks with temperatures from 40° to 47 °C. A multi-parametric acoustic analysis of sustained vowel productions showed an increase of mean F0 and mean acoustic-energy level for the painful 47 °C condition, particularly in those vowels that are associated with stereotypical pain groaning. Moreover, inspections of the acoustic data beyond the measured parameters suggest that the scope of our analysis is worth being extended in future studies to include voice-quality and formant parameters. Our research has the potential to create new opportunities in electrical engineering and provides a basis for developing various applications in healthcare and welfare technology.
Title of host publicationFortschritte der Akustik - DAGA 2017
Number of pages4
Place of PublicationKiel
Publication date15 Mar 2017
Article number447
StatePublished - 15 Mar 2017
Event43. Deutsche Jahrestagung für Akustik - Kiel, Germany
Duration: 6 Mar 20179 Mar 2017
Conference number: 43


Conference43. Deutsche Jahrestagung für Akustik
SeriesProceedings of the Annual Conference of The German Acoustical Society (DAGA)

    Research areas

  • pain, vowel, F0, formant, speech, prosody

Download statistics

No data available