Integrated Listening is based on the work of Dr. Alfred Tomatis, a French ear, nose and throat specialist who spent his career developing a clinically proven method for retraining the ear and brain to improve learning, communication, energy, balance, and mood. Integrated Listening Systems (iLS) is a sound-based therapy in which clients listen to music through specialized headphones. This music is processed and filtered at various stages of the therapy and the headphones include a bone conductor to further stimulate the auditory system.
The processing of sound is done in two primary ways. It is filtered so that frequencies above or below a certain level are removed. Clients are exposed to specific frequencies felt to be most therapeutic based on their listening tests and clinical histories. The music is also gated which was one of Dr. Tomatis’ most unique and innovative techniques. Dr. Tomatis realized that he could achieve optimal responses by separating music into channels and alternating the channels one was exposed to.
During the iLS process a variety of events occur in the central nervous system and body. In the ear, the two middle ear muscles – the tensor tympani and the stapedius – are strengthened and exercised. If these muscles are weak, underdeveloped, or rigid, the ability to listen is compromised and the rest of the auditory processing system is affected.
When strengthened, these muscles can further protect the ear from excessive noise and allow us to tune out noises deliberately so that we can better focus and attend.
During iLS, the vagus nerve is stimulated which is a nerve that enervates portions of the ear, regulates the body parasympathetically and controls homeostatic functions such as heart rate, respiratory rate and digestion. Stimulating the vagus nerve via iLS decreases excessive sympathetic overflow from stress and has a calming effect on the nervous system. The brain and body are thus better prepared to think, plan and learn.
Sound is transmitted through synaptic connections in our brain. If there is a delay in synaptic processing speed then learning and communication are made difficult. Integrated listening increases the firing speed of the neurotransmittors allowing these synaptic connections to be more efficient.
Integrated Listening causes direct increases in cortex stimulation which can have an inhibiting or calming effect on an overly active system. In individuals with sensory integration disorder, hypersensitive systems, ADD and ADHD iLS provides sensory modulation which impacts on states of alertness, consciousness, focus and attention.
Information from the ears and eyes have many interconnections with the cerebellum. This area of the brain along with the vestibular system in the ear affects balance, coordination and fine motor skills. During iLS, individuals with sensory integration disord and gross and fine movement disorders often see great improvements. It is common to observe improved handwriting, improved athleticism and better motor planning after treatments with iLS.
Integrated Listening can also lead clients to use more effective pathways for sound travel. Many children and adults who are left ear dominant display hesitation, decreased fluidity of speech and speak with diminished vocal range. The left ear first sends information to the right hemisphere before crossing over to the left. The right ear sends information directly to the left hemisphere, where our cortical language center resides. Integrated Listening can retrain the brain to primarily utilize right dominant processing. This then leads to improved tonal quality, more fluid speech, better singing and musical ability.