Voice Reactivity as a Response to Acute Hypobaric Hypoxia at High Altitude

Martine Van Puyvelde, Xavier Neyt, Wim Vanderlinden, Maarten Van den Bossche, Tony Bucovaz, Tony De Winne, Nathalie Pattyn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


BACKGROUND: Although the understanding of hypobaric hypoxia is increasing, it remains a hazard in aviation medicine. This study examined the feasibility of detecting voice markers sensitive to acute hypobaric hypoxia in an early presymptomatic (PRE-SYMP) stage.METHOD: Eight subjects qualified with hypobaric training completed a series of standardized speech tests in a hypobaric chamber at 20,000 ft and 25,000 ft (6096 and 7620 m) of altitude. Voice response patterns were analyzed in terms of fundamental frequency (F0), F0 range, and voice onset time (VOT). We hypothesized a PRE-SYMP compensatory stage in voice reactivity.RESULTS: There was a different dose-response reactivity course at 20,000 ft vs. 25,000 ft, nonlinear to altitude. At 20,000 ft, our hypothesis was confirmed. In comparison to sea level, a PRE-SYMP compensatory stage could be distinguished, characterized by a decreased F0 range, decreased VOT, and increased F0. During a transitional (TRANS) stage, in comparison with sea level, the F0-range reset, VOT decreased, and F0 increased. During a symptomatic (SYMP) stage, F0 increased, F0 range increased, and VOT decreased. At 25,000 ft, in comparison to sea level, voice reactivity showed increased F0 and F0 range and decreased VOT in a PRE-SYMP stage and increased F0 and F0 range in the SYMP stage.DISCUSSION: The compensatory PRE-SYMP stage is suggested to be the expression of ongoing bottom-up and top-down regulatory mechanisms, whereas the 25,000-ft results are interpreted as a combination of tonic and phasic voice reactivity. This tonic component needs to be foreseen in sea level baseline measures.Van Puyvelde M, Neyt X, Vanderlinden W, Van den Bossche M, Bucovaz T, De Winne T, Pattyn N. Voice reactivity as a response to acute hypobaric hypoxia at high altitude. Aerosp Med Hum Perform. 2020; 91(6):471-478.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)471-478
Number of pages8
JournalAerospace Medicine and Human Performance
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2020


  • Adult
  • Aerospace Medicine
  • Altitude
  • Humans
  • Hypoxia/classification
  • Male
  • Speech Production Measurement
  • Voice/physiology
  • Voice Disorders/classification

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