The most specific and relevant therapy for hearing improvement is Sound Therapy. The French ear specialist, Dr AA Tomatis developed, throughout his lifetime, a listening program which assists ear function and auditory perception. The program, known simply as Sound Therapy is now used or recommended by almost two hundred practitioners in Australia. It can be used at home or school, while travelling sleeping, reading or during other normal daily activities. Different practitioners find a variety of uses and benefits for the program.
Julia Dive, a mum and casual tutor says: “I’m passionate about Sound Therapy because it works, because it helps my son and because it helps me and I think because of the way I came into working with children with learning problems. The direction I took with that is fairly unique. Sound Therapy fits in really well with all the other things I’ve learned about the vestibular system and how important your balance and all your other senses are in learning to read and write. If you don’t have certain things in place, reading and writing becomes too hard, you can’t do it. Sound Therapy helps to establish some of those pathways that for some reason or other, some children miss out on establishing. Essentially I’m passionate about education, and so I guess I’m passionate about Sound Therapy because I see it as a prime tool for helping kids who aren’t being able to reach their educational potential.”
Helen Milbourne, a former infant primary school teacher now owns and operates the Albury/Wodonga GymbaROO Centre. Helen immediately saw many potential applications for Sound Therapy for children: eg. poor sleep, emotional problems, speech problems and many sensory/motor skill challenges as well as hearing issues.
The more she looked into Sound Therapy, the more she realised that by listening to this wonderful filtered music the brain is being stimulated and getting just as much of a workout as she was giving the children at GymbaROO. By offering Sound Therapy as well, she says, the children get a sort of “double whammy.”
Donna Alder, a teacher of hearing impaired children says:
“The children’s poetry tape has been a Godsend for my hearing impaired students. They love it! Their attention spans have increased dramatically since they have been listening regularly to the tape. My one very hyperactive youngster has settled down to her schoolwork because she knows she can listen to the tape as soon as she’s finished. The tape has become a reward!
“It’s amazing to me that for the 35 years that I have been teaching hearing impaired children, this is the first auditory training tape that uses only speech to which the children can listen comfortably. Patricia’s speech is articulate and soothing. You have chosen the poems carefully so that they are amusing and hold the children’s interest as well.”
Here are a few answers to questions often posed about Sound Therapy and hearing loss.
Will Sound Therapy help severe hearing loss?
This is a difficult question as each case of hearing loss is completely unique, and so is the individual’s potential to heal. To take a position of optimism, if there is some hearing, then it may be possible to improve that hearing to some extent, especially in a young person. Every little bit of residual hearing is important to the hearing impaired person, so improving that even a little bit is worthwhile. The only way to improve ear function is to provide the ear with the right chemical (nutritional) and vibrational (sound) stimulus. The natural way to do this is with natural supplements and high frequency sound. These two inputs will work synergistically, meaning that each augments the impact of the other. People with severe hearing loss have reported improvements through Sound Therapy. Not only does it stimulate the actual ear function, the muscles and the cilia, it also reduces stress, gives a sense of being centred and makes concentration on the auditory stimulus easier.
Will Sound Therapy help someone with a cochlear implant?
We do not know the answer to this question yet, as we have not had direct feedback from implant users. However, since implant users can enjoy music, it is quite possible that Sound Therapy could help in the process of retraining the brain and adjusting to auditory stimulus. We have yet to see the results when some implant users decide to try Sound Therapy.
Why does Sound Therapy focus mainly on high frequencies?
Because the high frequencies are usually lost first, and because they are the most crucial for understanding speech and the subtle meaning — the mood of speech. The human ear can potentially hear up to 16,000 Hertz, or 20,000 at the very highest. It is these very high sounds that are particularly emphasised in Sound Therapy as they give most stimulation to the ear and also improve brain energy and auditory perception.
Why don’t they test for frequencies between 8k and 16k?
Hearing tests normally only go as high as 8,000 Hz for two reasons. One is that they are primarily concerned with sounds in the speech range which is mostly below 8,000 Hz. The other is that if a sound above 8,000 Hz is played too loud it can potentially damage the ear. Sound Therapy is never played very loud, but even at an inaudible level, the higher frequencies are stimulating the cilia and improving the responsiveness of the auditory system.
If someone has a loss above 8,000 Hz they would not seem deaf but their audio sensitivity and musical appreciation would be reduced. Sound Therapy can re-awaken the perception of these high frequencies and listeners with ‘normal’ hearing are often amazed and the sense of expanded auditory awareness they discover.
How does Sound Therapy help conductive hearing loss?
By exercising and strengthening the middle ear muscles. The hammer and stirrup muscles play an important role, according to Dr Tomatis, in controlling the type of sounds that reach the inner ear. It has also been noted that those with difficulty equalizing their ear pressure or a persistent sense of blockage and fullness in the head achieve relief through Sound Therapy, once the middle ear muscles have regained their proper tone. This verifies Tomatis’s claim that Sound Therapy has a direct impact on middle ear function.
How does Sound Therapy help sensorineural hearing loss?
By gently stimulating the cilia and restoring their function. Sound Therapy is unique because it is the only place, apart from natural sounds such as birdsongs and frogs, where we hear concentrated doses of high frequency sounds at low volume. Most of the sound we hear today is machine noise which is nearly always in the low frequencies. Sound Therapy differs from nature sounds because it uses classical music made up of complex melodies, rhythms and harmonies, and is also rich in high frequencies, which have then been further augmented by the special recording program. Though clinically controlled experiments have not yet been done on hearing loss, sufficient numbers of listeners have reported improved hearing to indicate that Sound Therapy does achieve this in some cases.
If I or my child uses a hearing aid how can we use Sound Therapy?
You can either listen with or without your hearing aid. It is recommended to use the aid about 50% of the time, depending on preference. By starting out with the aid you allow the muscles to be stimulated. Listening without the aid is also beneficial as this means more of the very high frequencies, above the range of the hearing aid, will get through.