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                      Therapeutic listening


Therapeutic Listening was developed by Occupational Therapists Sheila Frick, OTR/L and Colleen Hacker, OTR/L and uses sound training in combination with sensory integrative techniques, which emphasize vestibular stimulation and postural movement strategies and allow therapists to approach the auditory and vestibular system directly.  Sound training uses electronically altered music that has been designed to produce specific effects on listening skills when the child follows a prescribed program. Listening skill difficulties are the inability to accurately perceive, process and respond to sounds and are often found to be an integral part of other perceptual, motor, attention and learning difficulties affecting a large number of our children. Therefore, listening becomes a function of our whole body, not just our ear. Hearing, a function of the ear is passive and does not involve the direction of attention to sound. Sound is received by the ear and passed along like a microphone. Listening is active and requires the desire to communicate and the ability to focus the ear on certain sounds selected for discrimination and interpretation.



The sound stimulation used in Therapeutic Listening appears to set up the nervous system, preparing ground for emergent skills. The music causes the muscles in the middle ear to contract, helping to discriminate and modulate sound input. In addition, there are tiny bones in the middle ear that vibrate when sound is provided, stimulating the movement (vestibular) and hearing (auditory) sensory receptors in the inner ear. This sensory information is sent throughout the central nervous system causing a multitude of reactions.


There are four nerves, which are impacted by sound therapy and travel from the inner ear to the brain and back to other parts of our body. For example, when  providing sound therapy you may stimulate the facial nerve. The facial nerve innervates the muscle in the middle ear as well as the muscle of facial expression. Along with this nerve also travels the  glossopharyngeal nerve, which controls the motor components of one’s voice. Therefore, the muscles of the ear, which are designed to extract the human voice from a noisy background (listening) are linked with the muscles of facial expression and voice production. When you are talking with someone you rely on the non-verbal facial expressions of the person who is listening to you. So, again these same muscles are necessary for producing clear articulation and for hearing accurately and efficiently. So, through the use of sound therapy, such as Therapeutic Listening, you are stimulating the muscles of the ear as well as the muscles of the mouth, because the nerves that innervate these muscles are the same nerves.



Therapeutic Listening consists of a series of CD’s prescribed specifically for each child over specifically designed headphones and work on a variety of skills. Listening time consists of 2 times a day, each for 30 minutes, with a minimum of 3 hours between listening times. The CD’s are electronically altered or passed through a high-low filter. This means that the frequencies at which the sounds are heard vary. Some CD’s jump from very high frequencies to very low frequencies and back and other CD’s do the same, but the variance is much less and therefore not as intensive for the listener.



•Listening with the Whole Body by Shiela M. Frick, OTR/L, and Colleen Hacker, MS, OTR/L

•Center for Developing Kids 



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