Dorinne Davis presents the fourth in a major series on the importance of sound in our everyday lives. Dorinne’s approach applies ideas that are arising from major research efforts in acoustical and neurosciences. She demonstrates with these articles the importance of sound on a systemic basis for our entire bodies, not just limited to hearing as we have normally thought about receiving sounds. The relationships she clarifies have major implications for how we can help everyone to learn more effectively. — ED
The Trunk of “The Tree” represents how the body processes general sound stimulation. This includes not only the ear’s ability to hear sound but also the vibrational stimulation of sound throughout the entire body. The ear receives stimulation through air vibration via the external ear canal. However, the ear also receives stimulation through our bone structure, our skin, and our interconnected cell matrix. Once sound is received at the ear, our neurological system transfers the stimulation to the brain, as well as indirectly to the many organs of the body. It is this direct and indirect combination of stimulation that makes The Trunk’s therapies so impactful.
The Trunk therapy, or foundation of The Tree, is based on the method established by Dr. Alfred Tomatis. Dr. Tomatis discovered The Tomatis Effect, 3 laws which state that the voice produces what the ear hears. From these laws, he developed The Tomatis® Method, a method of sound stimulation that uses filtered and gated music, bone conduction stimulation, and active voice work to make positive balance and change for the individual.
Dr. Tomatis differentiated between the terms “hearing” and “listening”. Hearing is something that just happens. Our ears pick up sound without our thinking about it. However, listening involves thinking about the sound and actively tuning into what is said or heard. Many people can hear sound but are poor listeners to the what, how, and why of what they hear. They do not listen well. This is demonstrated as an inability to follow directions, inability to stay focused on a task, inability to hear differences between speech sounds, inability to maintain eye contact, confusion about emotional content of conversations, difficulty putting one’s thoughts into words, and/or difficulty listening in background noise.
The vestibular system is also an important part of the ear. It is important for balance, coordination, muscle tone, fine and gross motor skills, and how one feels in the time and space around them. The indirect nerve stimulation from this portion of the ear also impacts the face, larynx, and eye-hand connectedness. Dr. Tomatis believed that the vestibular system impacted body posture and body positioning. When one’s body posture is perfect, the body reaches out to engulf all of the surrounding sounds for better overall responsiveness for learning. When the muscle tension necessary for this body posture is in harmony, the body is more receptive to learning.
The ear functions as an energy generator for the brain. Sounds give energy to the brain as they pass through the ear. The brain needs this stimulation to function and will organize the perceptions from the body for maximal use. The person’s voice provides a source of stimulation to themselves. The better the person’s voice is, the better the listening, and the more the brain will recharge. This explains the Voice-Ear-Brain connection-the foundation for The Tree of Sound Enhancement Therapy.
The Tomatis Method positions, activates, and stabilizes this Voice-Ear-Brain Connection. Dr. Tomatis found that the music of Mozart can energize as well as relax the body. By filtering this music, the ear is trained to focus on the higher frequency energizing sounds. Gregorian Chant is also used because of its slow, rhythmic, relaxing effect for a calm mind/body response. Eventually the listener begins to use his own voice in the listening process for maintaining the positive effects.
There are three functions when learning to listen and integrate sound: 1) discriminating meaningful sound, 2) spontaneously listening for pertinent sound, and 3) aiming the ear for best reception of sound. These three areas are evaluated using the Tomatis Listening Test. This test identifies areas of listening weakness and determines the programming for listening.
The method is an intensive one. The person listens for 2 hours per day for 15 days, takes 3-6 weeks off, and then listens for 2 hours per day for 15 more days. While listening, activities include fine or gross motor activities, relaxing, puzzles, drawing, and eventually active voice work. Benefits include: improved attention, concentration, and organization; ability to focus on conversations better; increase in creative ideas; enhanced reading comprehension; improved creative writing skills; better receptive/expressive language skills; enhanced balance and coordination; better communication skills; improved social connectedness; improved ability to listen and speak a foreign language; improved handwriting; enhanced singing and speaking skills; enhanced self-concept.
The Trunk of The Tree incorporates the concepts of Dr. Tomatis. Although his method is very powerful and can make many positive changes, it is advisable to introduce this method only at the appropriate time, as indicated from the Diagnostic Evaluation for Therapy Protocol (DETP). There are many Tomatis Method spin-off methods. Some only include filtered and gated music but not bone stimulation or voice work. Because of this, these methods are placed at the Upper Trunk of The Tree and should only be introduced when testing demonstrates one has a solid foundation in place. The Tomatis Method concepts have helped people with autism, AD/HD, dyslexia, oral motor issues, auditory processing issues, and more. However, The Sound Approach to Learning stresses that they should only be used at the appropriate time for maximum change. When indicated, the Tomatis Method should be used prior to spin-off methods.