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Sound Therapy

Courtesy of New Orleans
Listening and Learning Center - CLICK FOR WEBSITE

Sound Therapy is an innovative program of sound stimulation, audio-vocal activities and consultation. It has been used throughout the world for over fifty years and is described in the best selling book, The Mozart Effect. While anyone can benefit, it is of special interest to families and children with developmental delays, autism, PDD, Asperger's, attention deficit disorder and some types of learning problems. This treatment is often recommended by Dr. Stanley Greenspan for children with special developmental needs. There are now several methods of sound therapy, which have developed from the work of Dr. Alfred Tomatis. These include the Tomatis Method, Auditory Integration Training (Dr. Guy Berard), among others.

Clients include both children and adults. Adults often come to expand their capacity for growth and learning. For them, sound training can produce improved voice and public speaking skills, a heightened desire to express oneself, increased creativity and new abilities for career advancement.

Sound training works very well in conjunction with other therapeutic modalities and can build a foundation upon which other treatments can expand. Evaluation before and after is recommended for proper diagnosis, application and to document improvement. Auditory and visual processing are the building blocks of higher cognitive function. Improving these basic processes enhances learning, language and the ability to relate to others.

Tomatis Method

The Tomatis Method is developmental treatment; treatment is done in blocks of daily sessions, with Rest or Integration periods of at least three to six weeks in between the treatment blocks. The total treatment length can be described in terms of the number of actual hours of stimulation (a range of 120 hours to 300 hours, depending on the problem). However, these treatment hours are spread out over nine months to one year for a child with developmental delays.

The Tomatis Method uses progressively filtered classical music (Mozart and Gregorian Chant), played through a device known as an Electronic Ear, with specially designed head phones using both bone and air conduction. The filtered high frequency music stimulates the brain through the auditory/vestibular nerve. The stimulation of the nervous system, over time, results in the gradual improvement in the way the brain processes information. Thus, auditory processing is greatly improved, along with visual memory and attention. This process helps both children and adults find words to better express their feelings.

Many musicians use the Tomatis Method to train their voice. But, perhaps the least well-known and happiest use of The Tomatis Method is for pregnant mothers in the last trimester. The program for pregnant mothers is only 30 hours long and has great value for the ease of delivery, overall health of the fetus, and prevention of learning disabilities and other developmental problems.

Auditory Integration Training

After some experience with Tomatis's method, Dr. Guy Berard, a colleague of Dr. Tomatis, developed his own variation of Auditory Integration Training (AIT) in the 1960's. Dr. Berard's method of AIT differs from Dr. Tomatis's in two ways. The first difference is that the length of treatment is reduced from hundreds of hours of listening over a period of months to twenty half-hour listening sessions conducted over a ten-day period. Secondly, Berard's theoretical base is free of any psychological/relationship components. His theory is two-fold and simply stated. (1) Behavior is a direct result of how a person hears, and (2) the hearing mechanism (ear/brain connection) can be re-educated. Berard invented his own device for filtering and gaiting music, called the audiokenitron. A Berard-trained practitioner uses the results of precise audiometric testing, when they can be obtained, to determine the type and degree of hearing deficiency. This information can be used to individualize the treatment. Results from AIT include improved attention, language and social skills.

The Listening Program

A most recent variation based on the work of Tomatis and Berard was developed by the National Association of Child Development (NACD) in Utah.

This method is called The Listening Program and has been available since the Fall of 1999. The Listening Program (TLP) uses the same techniques of filtering and gaiting the music, but does not require a device for altering the music. TLP consists of a series of compact discs containing re-arranged classical music that has been precisely engineered for particular psychoacoustic effects - the effects of sound on the nervous system. The basic schedule of listening for TLP is fifteen-minute sessions twice daily, five days a week, for eight weeks. TLP may be used as a home-based therapy with authorized provider supervision.


Another type of sound stimulation that does not use music, but instead uses computer games, is based on research in brain plasticity and learning theory. The work of Dr. Paula Tallal and Dr. Michael Merzenich of the Scientific Learning Corporation in California has resulted in a series of products using cutting-edge technology in a computer game format. It is designed to speed up auditory processing resulting in improved listening, learning and language skills.

All of the sound stimulation techniques discussed have been researched in controlled studies and found to be effective. Virtually everyone can benefit from sound therapy. Those who are most in need have any of the following classifications: Autism, Pervasive Developmental Disorder, Depression, Aspberger Syndrome, Learning Disabilities, Central Auditory Processing Disorder, Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder, Sensory Integrative Disorder, Hypersensitive Hearing and/or Receptive/Expressive Language Disorder. Sound stimulation therapy is not only recommended to improve deficit areas but also to improve peak performance in auditory information processing.

Sources: Susan R. Andrews, PhD, Metairie LA; and Myra Rogers, MEd, Metairie LA.

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