Therapeutic Listening

Listening is a function of the entire brain and goes well beyond stimulating the auditory system. We listen with our whole body. In order to fully address listening difficulties one must also attend to the listening functions of both the hearing ear and the body ear.

One such approach that addresses the multiple facets of listening is Therapeutic Listening [Listening With the Whole Body].  The main idea is to emphasize integration of the auditory and vestibular systems together. Since there is such a close connection with visual functioning, visual processing also will likely improve. Particularly spatial awareness, and the concept of time and space. [Eichelberger, 2002]

When a Therapeutic Listening program is being implemented, as with all interventions based on the principles of Sensory Integration, a therapist relies on the client's cues to determine appropriate strategies [Kimball, 1993]. A child may be very active while listening, working on suspended equipment, and three-dimensional surfaces, which further challenge postural organization, motor planning, and higher-level sensory integration skills. The use of sound and music is so intimately connected to movement that children on listening programs are often compelled to move and explore the environment in new ways [Listening With the Whole Body]

It appears that sound stimulation alone facilitates the process of listening and social engagement [Porges, 1997]. However, to maintain and expand on those changes it is critical to engage the child in functionally and developmentally relevant activities that allows the changes to become a part of daily life skills [Listening With the Whole Body].

The equipment required for listening therapy are headphones that meet specific requirements, a CD player with special features, and CD's that are electronically altered, based on the ideas and the technology created by Alfred Tomatis, Guy Beard, and Ingo Steinbach. Depending on the child's treatment goals, the therapist will determine which music, modulation, and activities best suit the child.

When used in conjunction with Sensory Integration Therapy,   improvement is usually seen in:

  • alertness, attention, and focus

  •  receptive and expressive language, including articulation

  • balance and motor planning

  • affect and emotional responsivity

  • self-motivation

  • awareness of the environment

  • postural security

  • spatial awareness

  • initiation of play behavior

  • initiation of verbal interaction

  • modulation of sleeping, eating, toileting, alertness, emotional

  • stability [Eichelberger]

What does all this mean, you might ask? Sensory Integration Therapy is enhanced, it works better. The treatment is addressing more issues, and stimulating more senses. Results are usually seen earlier than without the Listening Program.

In my personal experience, with my own boy utilizing Listening Therapy, I saw almost immediate and dramatic changes. I noticed regulation of his internal organs. He suddenly had a normal appetite, and began eating full meals, instead of "picking" through the day. His bowel movements became regular. He stopped wetting himself. For the first time in his four and a half years he began sleeping through the night.

His art became focused and complete, not random scribbles. He began hearing letter sounds that he had not heard before. He became calmer, attentive, and alert. His balance improved. His thinking and planning increased. He could plan a project or task, think it through, and complete it without frustration.

Typically, a child listens to music for two-thirty minute sessions each day. This became a wonderful opportunity for us to interact at home. We worked on projects, letters, writing, building sets, coordination, and numbers. He loved dancing and singing with the music. I could see that it enhanced his ongoing therapy.

It was also very helpful to us to use the Therapeutic Listening Home Program Chart. With a few words written each day we were able to track his progress, and see changes. Over a period of weeks we could already see the benefits. Talk to your child's therapist to see if this program could be of benefit to your child.

IMPORTANT!!  Before buying any CD's, headphones, or CD players for this program, make sure you read the "Therapeutic Listening Guidelines".


Copyright © Michelle Morris. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author:

Michelle Morris is the mother of six, and parent of a child with a Sensory Processing Disorder. She is whole heartedly dedicated to promoting awareness and advocacy for families with SPD children.  She has published over 30 articles supporting and educating parents about SPD.

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Related Resources

Listening With the Whole Body

Sensory Processing Disorder Checklist - comprehensive SPD Checklist; signs and symptoms of tactile, auditory, olfactory and oral defensiveness, as well as proprioceptive and vestibular dysfunction.

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