Acoustic properties of vocally disruptive behaviors in the nursing home

Jiska Cohen-Mansfield*, Perla Werner, Kurt Hammerschmidt, John D. Newman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Background: Disruptive vocalizations are among the most common behavior problems in the nursing home. However, their acoustic properties have not been previously investigated. Objective: This paper examines the acoustic properties of disruptive vocalizations and attempts to link them to resident and verbalization characteristics. Methods: This study characterizes the sounds emitted by 26 nursing home residents who manifested disruptive vocalizations. Verbalizations were audiotaped and then used in a sonographic evaluation and an acoustic analysis. Results: Vocalizations of verbally agitated nursing home residents were characterized by their relatively short duration. Consistent positive correlations were found between seemingly disturbing types of vocalizations, such as yelling and howling, and higher levels of several parameters of the fundamental frequency. A similar positive correlation was also found between acoustic parameters and medical disease indicators. With the exception of the length of stream of utterances, the indicators did not differentiate between types of dementia. Conclusions: Because of the large number of comparisons undertaken, it is difficult to conclude which associations between acoustic properties and resident or vocalization characteristics are attributable to real underlying trends and which are due to chance and error. Consistencies that deserve further research pertain to the perceptions of the types of vocalizations the person tends to emit and to the physical health of the person.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)161-167
Number of pages7
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2003
Externally publishedYes


FundersFunder number
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human DevelopmentZIAHD001123


    • Acoustic analysis
    • Elderly
    • Nursing home
    • Verbally disruptive behaviors
    • Vocalizations


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