Coronavirus Fact-check #16: “Can you HEAR Covid19?”

A Dutch company claims they can diagnose Covid19 through the sound of your voice, but is that really possible?

Yesterday, the UK’s Daily Mail published an article about a new app which claims to be able to diagnose Covid19 infection just through the sound of your voice.

The story was also covered by Sky, The Independent, the Telegraph and many others.

The Mail headlined:

Could a mobile APP replace lateral flows? Scientists reveal new Covid testing software that detects virus through a person’s voice in under a minute – and experts say it can be more accurate than a swab test

The article goes on to explain:

The Dutch researchers say coronavirus usually affects the upper respiratory tract and vocal chords, leading to changes in a person’s voice. The team decided to investigate whether it was possible to detect the novel virus in people’s voices.

This is not the first app to make this claim, as early in the “pandemic” as May 2020 an EU-funded group based in Cambridge began claiming they could diagnose “Covid” just by listening to people cough.

Now, does this make any sense? Is it really possible to diagnose disease just from the sound of someone’s voice?

Simply put, almost certainly not. Without seeing the scientists’ actual data it is not possible to rule it out completely, but there are multiple apparent issues.

  • “Covid19” is not the only infection which affects the respiratory tract. How could an app differentiate “Covid” and “flu”?
  • Different mobile devices have different microphones, how can the app distinguish feedback or interference from a sore throat?
  • Huge numbers of (alleged) Covid19 “cases” are supposedly symptomless, so the app could never detect those.
  • The only way to test the results is by confirming with PCR tests, which don’t work, or lateral flow tests, which also don’t work.

So, even if “Covid19” was a thing (which it isn’t), and even if we try to be objective and open-minded about the idea, it doesn’t seem like it would be any use at all.

And honestly, all that is feels like we’re giving the concept WAY more respect than it deserves. The very idea you can diagnose disease through the sound of a voice is completely ridiculous. But Covid times have enabled all the clowns in the world.

However, if you want a little silver lining read the comments below the Daily Mail article, and see that no one is buying this. One of them makes an interesting observation:

So they have harvested your DNA with the PCR test swabs, now they are after your voice print as well?

Is that what’s really going on here? We can’t rule it out.


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Categories: Covid Factchecker, latest