Voice, a Biomarker to Detect Diseases

To the general public, it may sound like something out of a science fiction movie: diagnosing serious diseases such as cancer by listening to someone’s voice. But in fact, researchers funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) are now investigating whether changes in a person’s voice could serve as a new biomarker in clinical care for detecting illnesses early.

The project, called Voice as a Biomarker of Health, will include 12 research institutions and is being funded by the Bridge to Artificial Intelligence (Bridge2AI) program out of the NIH Common Fund. The project will use machine learning to build a database of vocal biomarkers, and then use the science of acoustic analysis to identify changes—such as pitch, amplitude, cadence, and words per minute—that could become a low-cost diagnostic tool, alongside other clinical tests.