Dorinne Davis is an auditory specialist who heads up the Davis Center in Budd Lake, NJ. She has gained international interest in the relationship of sound reception to cognitive development. This article is Part One of a three part series, “Sound Approach to Learning”.
Breakthroughs in Learning: The Role of Sound
The “Sound Approach to Learning” Series
Sound and Learning: How do the two go together? When we think of learning, we should think of more than just reading, math, and academics. We should think of how the body takes in the information to eventually develop the higher thinking skills for reading, math, and other academic skills. To get to the higher skill level, the person must first feel and explore the world around them. Their brain must integrate all of the sensory information received in order to stimulate the cognitive receptors to action. Believe it or not, the ear is our body’s major sensory stimulator. It stimulates the receptive and expressive body responses of taste, touch, smell, vision, and hearing through the direct and indirect branching effects of the cranial nerves. These responses are activated by sound’s vibrations.
Sound travels in waves. Our bodies feel these waves all over our body. Our cells, skin, and bones receive these vibrations which then radiate to other parts of the body. Our ear picks up the vibrations as needed and sends the information to the brain. The brain will determine if it wants to tune into the sound or block it out.
When a child is developing in utero, the ear is the only sensory system fully functioning after 4 months. The other senses are fully functioning at birth. By its very development, the ear is demonstrating how important it is to a child’s learning and development. Although most know that the ear is our hearing mechanism, they may not also realize that the ear is our vestibular mechanism. Our body movement, coordination, balance, proprioception (body in time and space), and muscle tone are all supported by vibrational stimulation to this part of the ear.
Developmentally, a child needs good sound stimulation to activate the hearing part of the ear so that the brain receives good input for later language and social skills. But he also needs good stimulation to the vestibular portion of the ear to balance the input of hearing.
Dr. Alfred Tomatis, in the 1950’s discovered a connection between the voice, the ear, and the brain. Three laws were established at the French Academie of Science in 1957, known as The Tomatis Effect, which summarized say that the voice produces what the ear hears. Since there are two parts to the ear, it is important to stimulate both the vestibular and hearing portions of the ear so that reception and expression of what the voice and/or brain produce are in balance. Two additional laws, known as The Davis Addendum to the Tomatis Effect, were introduced at the Acoustical Society of America in 2004 that summarized, say that the ear emits the same stressed frequencies evidenced in the voice. The importance of these additional laws further verifies a connection between the voice, the ear, and the brain. It is this connection, which can be altered or modified with sound stimulation, that provides the foundation to the “Sound Approach to Learning”.
Sound must be heard correctly in order to be processed correctly. If there is a breakdown in the transmission of sound to the hearing part of the ear, the breakdown may also impact the vestibular portion. With either of these parts understimulated, the brain may not receive an appropriate message to process. One example is the child with a history of middle ear infections. The infected fluid interrupts the normal flow of sound’s vibrations through the middle ear prior to its being received by the inner ear, the portion that picks up the sound’s frequency information and sends it to the brain and the portion that picks up the body’s vestibular input and sends it to the brain. With this disruption, the stimulation at the brain for interpretation may be limited. Over time, the brain receives faulty information and children become experts at processing this faulty information, not knowing that there could have been a clearer message.
When a child displays symptoms such as an over-sensitivity to sound, or he ignores sound, the symptoms are of someone who has a “hearing issue”. (For the sake of this article, a hearing issue does not indicate a hearing loss. It will be assumed that people have normal or near normal hearing.) Yet there are children who have sound processing issues (not to be confused with an Auditory Processing Disorder) whose symptoms may be demonstrated with poor eye contact, poor balance and coordination, poor posture, weak oral motor skills, low muscle tone, articulation difficulties, stammering/stuttering, poor voice quality, poor receptive or expressive language skills, poor social skills, poor organizational skills, poor attention/focus skills, not wanting to try different taste textures, weak eye/hand coordination, difficulty sounding out words, poor vocabulary usage, difficulty comprehending what they read, not wanting to read out loud, and more. These children have difficulty integrating the sensory information they received as they were developing. Typically if the hearing issues are present, the sound processing issues are also present. Both of these issues affect learning.
Each of these issues can be helped with sound-based therapies. Can the person develop without helping their hearing and sound processing issues? Yes, however, the person will struggle with learning throughout their life. There have been some well known people who have struggled with these issues and done extremely well for themselves but more often people give up, feel frustrated, develop a poor self-concept, or get interested in something less challenging in order to feel good about who and what they are.
The “Sound Approach to Learning” uses an introductory diagnostic test battery called the Diagnostic Evaluation for Therapy Protocol (DETP) to determine if a sound-based therapy can make positive change for an individual. Sound-based therapy involves the use of some form of sound vibration that impacts the body using special equipment, programs, modified music, and/or specific tones/beats, the need for which is identified with appropriate testing. The DETP identifies which sound-based therapy is appropriate and in which order the therapies should be administered if more than one is necessary. The DETP is based upon The Tree of Sound Enhancement Therapy® which will be discussed in Part 2.