Think you’re speaking in a loud voice and yet, your significant other is constantly asking you to repeat yourself or talk louder? Are you feeling more isolated in group settings because people can’t seem to hear you? If you have Parkinson’s disease or a similar type of neurological disorder, you may be overestimating the volume of your voice.

Most people know that Parkinson’s disease (PD) causes tremors and/or issues with balance and walking (gait). However, PD can influence speech and vocal qualities as well. Hypokinetic Dysarthria is a group of speech characteristics that include reduced vocal loudness, decreased speech intelligibility, monotone pitch, disruptions of voice quality, and abnormally fast rate of speech. (Geriatrics and Aging. 2006;9(1):40-43.)

Research has shown that patients with PD overestimate the volume of their speech during both reading and conversation. (Ho AK, Bradshaw JL, Iansek T. Volume perception in parkinsonian speech. Mov Disord. 2000 Nov;15(6):1125-31. doi: 10.1002/1531-8257(200011)15:6<1125::aid-mds1010>;2-r. PMID: 11104195.)

So, what can you do? Start by downloading a decibel meter app or use one online. I use Decibel Meter X, but there are a variety of choices (see below). According to the CDC, A whisper is about 30 decibels (dB), and a normal conversation is about 60 dB. If you have difficulty calibrating the decibel meter app due to the background noise in your home, try whispering first. The volume for your normal speaking voice would be approximately 30 dB above that.

Sing a familiar song such as, “Row, Row, Row Your Boat”, with a quiet voice and note your average decibel reading. Then use a medium and lastly a loud volume. Did the reading on the decibel meter app match your perception of your volume? Throughout the week, sing a favorite song each day. Vary your volume while using a decibel meter and notice how your body feels when the readings indicate a “normal” conversational level.

How can this help? Using an app such as a decibel meter provides biofeedback. According to the Oxford Dictionary, biofeedback is “a process whereby electronic monitoring of a normally automatic bodily function is used to train someone to acquire voluntary control of that function.” When you have Parkinson’s, lack of dopamine creates a faulty feedback loop pertaining to the loudness of your voice and movement of your speech muscles. Your brain may be telling you that you’re at a normal level of loudness when you’re not. Using technology such as a decibel meter gives visual feedback to look at so you can adjust your effort to result in the volume you’d like to reach. Biofeedback is important to ensure you are adjusting and increasing power when needed. It helps us to make everything bigger and more exaggerated to compensate.

Listed below are a few apps that will provide biofeedback. Explore the app store to find the one that’s easiest for you to use and fits your lifestyle.

Decibel X iPhone:

Decibel X Android:

NIOSH Sound Level Meter –

Youlean Free online decibel meter:

It’s important not to strain your voice in order to speak more loudly. In my next post, I’ll be sharing some techniques you can use to help maintain and/or improve the volume of your voice safely. In the interim, have fun using the decibel meter app, trying it in different settings and keep singing!




Pin It on Pinterest