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A wearable device to monitor patients with voice problems

The engineer Marcos Llorente has designed, in the first thesis of the Laboratiorio de Ingeniería Médica, a mechanism that adapts to the throat and allows the detection of inefficient phonatory patterns.

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The engineer Marcos Llorente with the device he has designed to detect voice problems. PHOTO: Manuel Castells
15/11/19 14:34 Miguel Ángel Echávarri

Marcos Llorente recently defended the first engineering thesis within the PhD in Applied Medical Research of the Faculty of Medicine, a research that has been developed for the first time in the Medical Engineering Laboratory.

It is a doctoral thesis that combines Engineering and Otolaryngology, and has been directed by Dr. Secundino Fernández, dean of the Faculty, and co-directed by ProfessorAdam Podhorski of Tecnun . "The aim was to make it possible to monitor patients outside the hospital environment, and to have objective data on the use and characteristics of the voice for diagnostic and therapeutic purposes," explains Llorente. 

To this end, this engineer, a former student of Tecnunhas developed a wearable device that is placed on the throat and records and measures the main parameters of the voice (fundamental frequency and relative intensity), as well as the time of use of the voice, carrying out all the processing internally. "This is possible thanks to an accelerometer placed on the skin in the lower part of the larynx that records the vibrations generated by the vocal cords. This information is processed by a low-power microcontroller that is responsible for obtaining the value of the parameters of interest. The low power consumption of this device makes it possible to record for weeks without the need for intervention by the user," says the researcher.

In this way, the device allows the detection of inefficient phonatory patterns (voice deficiencies or lesions) or at risk of developing organic lesions, while at the same time allowing the monitoring of behaviour modification after having followed speech therapy, pharmacological or surgical treatments.

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