Clinically Relevant Sound-based Features in COVID-19 Identification: Robustness Assessment with a Data-Centric Machine Learning Pipeline

Pedro Matias, Joao Costa, Andre V. Carreiro, Hugo Gamboa, Ines Sousa, Pedro Gomez, Joana Sousa, Nuno Neuparth, Pedro Carreiro-Martins, Filipe Soares

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
13 Downloads (Pure)


As long as the COVID-19 pandemic is still active in most countries worldwide, rapid diagnostic continues to be crucial to mitigate the impact of seasonal infection waves. Commercialized rapid antigen self-tests proved they cannot handle the most demanding periods, lacking availability and leading to cost rises. Thus, developing a non-invasive, costless, and more decentralized technology capable of giving people feedback about the COVID-19 infection probability would fill these gaps. This paper explores a sound-based analysis of vocal and respiratory audio data to achieve that objective. This work presents a modular data-centric Machine Learning pipeline for COVID-19 identification from voice and respiratory audio samples. Signals are processed to extract and classify relevant segments that contain informative events, such as coughing or breathing. Temporal, amplitude, spectral, cepstral, and phonetic features are extracted from audio along with available metadata for COVID-19 identification. Audio augmentation and data balancing techniques are used to mitigate class disproportionality. The open-access Coswara and COVID-19 Sounds datasets were used to test the performance of the proposed architecture. Obtained sensitivity scores ranged from 60.00% to 80.00% in Coswara and from 51.43% to 77.14% in COVID-19 Sounds. Although previous works report higher accuracy on COVID-19 detection, this research focused on a data-centric approach by validating the quality of the samples, segmenting the speech events, and exploring interpretable features with physiological meaning. As the pandemic evolves, its lessons must endure, and pipelines such as the proposed one will help prepare new stages where quick and easy disease identification is essential.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)105149 - 105168
JournalIEEE Access
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 3 Oct 2022


  • COVID-19
  • data-centric
  • Databases
  • Feature extraction
  • feature extraction
  • Larynx
  • Lungs
  • machine learning
  • Machine learning
  • Pandemics
  • Respiratory system
  • signal processing
  • Signal processing
  • speech
  • Speech recognition
  • vocal tract


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