Auditory Stimulation
with the Tomatis Method
Dr. Alfred Tomatis (1920-2001)

As a French Ear Nose and Throat physician at the Paris Faculty of Medicine, Dr. Tomatis devoted a large part of his career to studying the relationship between the ear and the voice as well as the relationship between listening and communication.

As a specialist in hearing and language disorders his discoveries were validated at the physiology laboratory of the Sorbonne and were presented to the Academy of Sciences and Academy of Medicine in Paris in 1957 and 1960.
The Tomatis Method® is an effective teaching process for listening. Listening is the ability to use one’s hearing intentionally and attentively for the purpose of learning and communicating. Listening is to the ear as what aiming is to the eye. Hearing is passive whereas listening is an active higher cognitive function. Listening is important for learning, communicating and managing emotions. It is therefore more than just passive reception of sound and relies on a healthy functioning auditory system.

When sensory messages transmitted through the ear are misinterpreted listening becomes disrupted or distorted. This distortion in listening is related to the functioning of the muscles in the middle ear. When these muscles are weakened their function is less effective. Problems in listening can be as a result of a myriad of experiences, from trauma and stress, difficult pregnancy and birth, environmental effects such as being exposed to chronic levels of loud sounds, early childhood illnesses and ear infections as well as genetic disorders. As a result, harmonious transfer of sound from the inner ear to the brain is affected and listening becomes disrupted. When the sensory message is distorted the brain puts protective measures in place that confuse listening, which can result in the development or exacerbation of certain problems.

If you change the way the ear works, you affect all the body’s major organs. These changes, in turn, can produce profound transformations in how we function. Dr. Tomatis pioneered the field of sound therapy and auditory stimulation. He is the founder of the audio-psycho-phonology discipline.

Today, one can find different sound training or audio programmes such as, Auditory Integration Therapy (Berard), ILS (Integrated Listening Systems) and Therapeutic Listening. However, Solisten® is a trademark owned exclusively by Tomatis Developpement SA.
With the Solisten® device you will listen to a specific program chosen for you.
The Solisten® system incorporates a portable digital device, reproducing the TOMATIS® Effect, and is equipped with special headphones. Solisten plays specially processed and preselected music to stimulate the auditory integration system.

Solisten® is a sound training therapy or listening programme that provides pre-programmed selected and processed music to stimulate and activate the auditory processing system. By stimulating the auditory system, Solisten® provides the “Tomatis Effect” and is able to reactivate the full listening potential of the individual. Solisten® is a home based programme that is portable and easy to use.

Dr. Tomatis noted three laws in the “Tomatis Effect”, namely:

1. The voice only contains what the ear can hear.
2. If hearing is modified then the voice is immediately and unconsciously modified.
3. It is possible to durably transform phonation when auditory stimulation is maintained over a certain time (the law of duration or remanence).

The ear further has three basic functions:

1. The function of hearing. It is possible to have good hearing but poor listening. Listening is an activity that involves receiving, deciphering and perceiving a message with the intent to respond. Poor listening can be the cause of many learning and communication problems.

2. The Energy function. The human ear assists with cortical stimulation. Music rich in high frequency harmonics energises the brain. Solisten® incorporates mostly Mozart violin concertos, which are rich in high frequencies. The programme also makes use of Gregorian chants, which have a soothing effect.

3. The Balance/Vestibular function. The vestibular system is found in the middle ear and informs the brain of movement as well as being vital in controlling balance, co-ordination and rhythm. Through its action on the vestibule, Solisten® has a beneficial effect on both gross and fine motor functions.

The ear and the brain are intricately connected and as the ear expands its functions so the brain expands its capabilities and states of awareness. The Solisten® programme restores the functioning of the muscles in the middle ear and corrects distortions in listening. Solisten®, therefore, through the Tomatis Effect, changes the way the ear works and as a result affects all the body’s major functions. These changes in turn have a profound effect in how we function.

How it works

Solisten® is a portable sensory stimulation device that reproduces the essential parameters of the Tomatis Method. The Solisten device contains several listening programmes. These programmes are adapted to most listening related disorders. The Solisten® programme makes use of an Electronic Ear which incorporates a process called electronic gating. The gating system alternates music being played between two channels (C1 and C2). The two audio channels play the same music however alternate in frequency (between high and low). This causes contraction of the auditory muscles in the middle ear as well as focuses the brain on the sound message. Through this the ear and brain learn to listen.

As humans we listen in two ways. We listen through air conduction (sound entering through the ear and the tympanic membrane) and bone conduction (vibration through bone). It is important for these two means of listening to function effectively. In addition to the gating system, the Solisten® device also incorporates bone conduction through specialised headphones (a vibrator situated in the top band of the headphone). Through these headphones the electronic ear incorporates a delay between the sound transmitted via air and the sound transmitted via bone. This delay, called precession, causes the brain to analyse the message twice. Through repeated use and constant stimulation of the auditory system, the brain will take over the function of anticipation performed by the machine.

In addition to the gating system and bone conduction, vibrations from the headphones also stimulate the cranial nerves in the head, neck and face. The ear is connected to 7 of the 12 cranial nerves. Through auditory pathways the ear affects the entire nervous system.

Areas of application and those who can benefit

Solisten® is a safe, non-invasive form of sound training. Solisten enables individuals to return to a state of normalcy. Both children and adults can benefit from the Solisten programme. Because the ear is a sensory organ, it plays an efficient role in many areas.

Areas of application that we work with include:

Learning difficulties and Language Disorders. This includes Dyslexia (reading), Dysorthography (the relation of sounds to written letters), and Dyspraxia (the use and coordination of learned gestures). Also included among these difficulties are Dysphasia (spoken language) and Dyscalculia (mathematical functions and numbers).

Attention Disorders such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

Affective and Emotional Disorders such as Depression, Anxiety and Stress.

Fatigue, Burnout and self-confidence.

Communication Disorders, Auditory Processing Disorder and Sensory Integration Difficulties.

Psychomotor Difficulties, including Fine and Gross Motor difficulties, Poor Co-ordination, Balance and Low Muscle Tone.

Pervasive Developmental Disorders including Autism, Asperger Syndrome and Rett Syndrome.

Improvement of the voice and of musicality.

Learning of Foreign Languages.

Preparation for Childbirth - Pregnancy Programmes.

The Solisten® Programme, based on the TOMATIS® Method, is not a treatment for any known disease nor a means of formulating a diagnosis for any medical or psychological disorder.

Carol Smit, Solisten Practitioner, Fourways, Sandton, Johannesburg, South Africa.