Sound and music can have a very powerful effect on one's health. Sound therapy is used in hospital, schools, corporate offices, and psychological treatment programmes as an effective treatment to reduce stress, lower blood pressure, alleviate pain, overcome learning disabilities, improve movement and balance, and promote endurance and strength.
There is no question that sound has a major impact on all of us. Soft ballads soothe us, anthems stir us, heavy metal sounds sends some of us into frenzies. It is no wonder, then, that doctors have adopted sound and music for a variety of therapeutic uses.
Music Therapy: Of all the sound therapies in use today, music is the most common. Music therapy can reduce heart rate, blood pressure, pain and anxiety. In hospitals, it is used to alleviate pain (along with pain medication or anesthesia), improve patients' moods and counteract depression, promote movement during physical rehabilitation, calm or sedate, induce sleep, counteract fear and reduce muscle tension. In nursing homes, it is used to boost the residents' level of physical mental and social functioning. You are likely to encounter music therapy in a variety of situations. Among its many applications are: relieving anxiety before and after surgery; reducing stress in the hospital's intensive care unit; relaxing infants and children; reducing chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting breaking the cycle of pain in people with chronic pain; helping stroke patients and people with Parkinson's disease walk normally; helping some women in labour to forego anesthesia. Reducing anxiety during flexible sigmoidoscopy, an uncomfortable five-to ten-minute procedure in which the lower colon and rectum are examined for potentially cancerous polyps and reducing stress in healthy persons.
Other Sound Therapies
The Tomatis Method: Employing specially modified auditory feedback in a broad range of frequencies, this approach is promoted for use in children with auditory processing problems, dyslexia, learning difficulties, attention deficit disorder, autism, and impaired motor skills. In adults, it has also been used to relieve depression, speed up foreign language training, improve communication skills, and enhance the skills of actors, musicians and singers.
The Berard Method: This form of treatment uses electronically enhanced music to correct hypersensitive or distorted hearing. It is thought to be helpful for children with dyslexia, autism, attention deficit disorder, pervasive developmental delay and central auditory processing disorder.
Spectral Activated Music of Optimal Natural Structure (SAMONAS): Another form of electronically tailored music, SAMONAS is intended to train the auditory system to process the full lrange of sound without distortion, hypersensitivity or frequency loss. It is said to improve overall neurologic function, and is advocated for use in children with hypersensitive hearing, hearing loss, auditory processing problems, autism, developmental delays, attention deficit disorder, dyslexia, learning disabilities, cerebral palsy, and other disorders. Its advocates say that singers, musicians, and individuals who 'experience auditory discrimination problems or have difficulty expressing themselves verbally' should also consider this therapy.
Toning: In this therapy, you are asked to repeat certain vowels is said to bring 'new life energy' to 'inhibited' or 'unbalanced' parts of the body. It is advocated to release stress, improve the ability to listen, improve the speaking voice, and balance the mind and body. There has been little if any scientific testing of these therapies, and the few available reviews are quite mixed. In addition, leading mainstream critics of alternative therapy warn that the more exotic types of sound therapy are highly susceptible to quackery. The treatments are unlikely to cause harm unless they are used as substitutes for proven therapies. However, they may not be very helpful either.
Procedure of Treatment
Music therapy ranges from listening to music to improvising tunes, writing songs, discussing lyrics, performing compositions, using music and imagery, and learning through music. Because music therapy is used in so many different ways, there is no one typical approach. Music intended for relaxation should have about 70 to 80 beats per minute, similar to the heart rate. A faster beat may create tension. It should be low in pitch, since a high pitch also fosters tension. Volume should be kept low. High volume can cause pain. When used to reduce anxiety, music should have a slow, steady rhythm, a low pitch, liberal orchestration, and relaxing melodies. Instrumental selections are considered more effective than vocal music, since patients may focus on words and their meaning rather than relaxing with the music.
Other Sound Therapies
The Tomatis Method: Treatments are delivered by a machine called the Electronic Ear. This device is intended to stimulate the stages of listening development. Special headphones equipped with a bone-conduction sensor deliver sound through a sophisticated stereo system. The sensor captures vibrations through the bone. Lower frequencies are filtered out, so that only the 'proper' sounds are heard.
The Berard Method: The treatments employ a device known as the Ears Education and Retraining System (EERS). The system adjusts all sound frequencies so that they can be heard with the same clarity. The resulting music is 'administered' through headphones for half an hour twice a day for 10 days. Treatment can be repeated every six months.
SAMONAS: The National Academy for Child Development, a private organization, provides individualized treatment plans for using this therapy at home. Patients listen to six to seven SAMONAS compact discs five days a week, 15 to 60 minutes a day, for four to seven months. Patients submit periodic progress reports. The CDs contain classical chamber music and nature sounds that have been spectrally activated, filtered, and modulated by something called an Envelope Curve Modulator.
Toning: This form of therapy requires you to stand with eyes closed and jaw relaxed while you vocalize extended vowel sounds.
Music Therapy: This form of therapy has been extensively studied, and has yielded a host of positive results. For instance, stroke patients who listened to music with imbedded metronome pulses for 30 minutes a day over a period of three weeks were able to walk with better stride, cadence and foot placement than patients who did not receive the treatments. Similar improvement was seen in patients with Parkinson's disease. The researchers theorized that muscle activity that is synchronized to auditory rhythm becomes more regular and efficient. Music therapy has also been used successfully during childbirth in at least one set of clinical trials. The mother and her partner were permitted to choose the type of music to be used during the various stages of labour and after delivery. About half of the women who tried the technique did not require anesthesia. In another study, a single, a 30-minute music therapy session produced a significant increase in immune system function in 19 children being treated for cancer. A control group of 17 children who did not receive music therapy showed no significant change.
Other Sound Therapies
The Tomatis Method: Developed about 40 years ago by French ear, nose and throat specialist, Alfred A. Tomatis, these treatments aim to repattern a child's hearing range and attention span, thus enhancing learning capacity. Eight small trials conducted in South Africa during the 1980s found that the treatments resulted in improved self-control, self-concept, and interpersonal relations, as well as higher achievement levels. However, a later clinical study found that, a year after therapy stopped, learning disabled children who were not treated with the Tomatis method showed better auditory discrimination than those who received it.
The Berard Method: This form of therapy originated with the French physician Guy Berard. The wide-spectrum music employed in the treatments can improve auditory discrimination in anyone suffering a deficit in this area, according to the Georgiana Institute, the method's primary U.S. proponent. Although the institute claims that nearly two dozen clinical studies have been conducted in the past five years, only one report has appeared in the medical press, and its conclusions were negative. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, the professional credentialing association for audiologists and speech language pathologist, has called for more testing before rendering judgment.
SAMONAS: Developed in Germany by physicist Ingo Steinbach, this system is said to train the auditory system to process sound without distortion, hypersensitivity, or frequency loss. Purported benefits include restored hearing, improved speech and language ability, and better concentration.
Toning: Somewhat like the mantras used in some forms of meditation, the vowel sounds uttered in this type of therapy are said to cause the brain waves to synchronize and balance within three to five minutes. This, in turn, is thought to promote a sense of physical and emotional well being.
Who Should Avoid this Therapy?
All forms of sound therapy are considered safe for anyone.
Be careful to keep the volume low when using a sound therapy device. Otherwise, you might suffer hearing loss. No other side-effects are likely.