Auditory Integration Training

Girl-With-ShellMusic StethoscopeNautilus Shell

What is Auditory Re-training, also known as Auditory Integration Training?

Auditory Integration Training / ORCA PC-based Auditory Re-training is a method that bring acoustic stimulation to the entire hearing, listening and balancing mechanism of the ear, but also stimulates the brainstem towards better attention to auditory stimuli.

It benefits those who are

  • hard of hearing,
  • those with speech and language disorders,
  • those who struggle with attention to sound (either hyper- or hypo-sensitive to sounds)
  • it can remedy Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity,
  • ameliorate addictions,
  • and allergies,
  • as well as immune system anomalies,
  • mood disorders, such as depression,
  • help children and adults with Asperger Syndrome,
  • Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD),
  • Central Auditory Processing Disorder (CAPD) and
  • children with Autism (ASD) or
  • Sensory Integration Disorders (aural, oral, visual and tactile)
  • Those with movement disorders, such as cerebral palsy
  • The elderly,
  • the very young,
  • business people who rely on their auditory modality to make a living – such as lawyers and negotiators,
  • crafts people and construction workers who use machines and tools, which emit noise/high volume sounds,
  • musicians,
  • teachers and students,
  • and anyone with a memory problem

The earliest sense to develop is that of smell.  This might be why our memories are so narrowly tied into what we smell… the whiff of lavender and we’re back in grandma’s bedroom on the farm; the smell of a wood fire and we find ourselves huddled around a camp fire somewhere in the bush in Africa as a 12 year old on a camp with friends.

The second sense to develop is that of hearing – we hear our mother’s voice in the womb.  We hear her heart beat – she is the familiar one and remains that for the rest of our natural lives – a bond very few can sever.  Our ear is, however, primary in another sense.  It is our gateway to the world.  As early as the first time when we hear our own voice fill the void, when we are yanked out of the comfort, warmth and safety of our mother’s womb, do we try and fathom out what the strange barrage of sounds mean that stream into our heads.

We form phonemic awareness of our mother-tongue very early in life – between the ages of zero to six months.  If we have allergies early in life and fluid fills our middle-ear cavities, then we lose that connectivity with the world of sound we live in.  Gradually, as sound remains muffled and we can’t discriminate properly between different sound patterns, our phonemic awareness of mother tongue blunts and we lose a skill which should stand us in good stead for the rest of our lives.

Repeated middle ear infections between birth and twenty four months are more than likely the most important reason why some children don’t learn to speak like others by the age of a year.  Research has also shown that it is this very crucial period of language development that is most at risk in children with histories of early ear infections, so that children develop autism (ASD), dyslexia, specific language based learning disabilities (SLD).

Bérard Auditory Integration Training – Retraining The Ear

Till recently few interventions existed which were able to turn around conditions as severe as those mentioned above.  That is, until the advent of Auditory Re-Training – also known as Auditory Integration Training.    This gift came to the world via the route of two French doctors:  Dr. Alfred Tomatis and a contemporary, who benefited from Dr. Tomatis’ work with those going deaf, Dr. Guy Bérard.  The latter was a young GP, building clinics in Cambodia, on holiday back in France, when he one day said to his wife that he heard the same crickets in France that he heard in Cambodia.  She was shocked and said he needed a doctor.  He said he was one, but she insisted he needed a doctor for his head (psychiatrist), as she heard nothing!  It turned out that the “crickets” he heard, was in fact the unmistakable evidence of sensory-neural hearing loss.   He saw several experts in the ENT field in France – all had only one verdict: “In 5 years you will be completely deaf… no treatment”, Dr. Bérard recounted several years later.

Strong Rhythm Beats Classical Melodies

His hearing loss drove him to try and find answers.  He started studying in his chosen specializing of Ear-, Nose- and Throat.  Soon he crossed paths with Dr. Alfred Tomatis, who indicated that his new electronically altered music could possibly cure Bérard’s deafness.  He commenced treatment and indeed, Bérard regained his hearing and much more. He gained an understanding that the ear is trainable and re-trainable and that losses need not be permanent.  He also learnt that the heavy insistence of Dr. Tomatis to use Mozart and other classical music for therapy, was perhaps not the Law of the Medes and the Persians.  He experimented with other music and as he disliked the 300 hour+ therapy regimen of Dr. Tomatis, he developed a new system of electronically modulated and filtered music, which became known as the Bérard Method of AIT.

“Is this music broken?”

Today scores of innovations on both Tomatis and Berard’s work exist.  The good news is that most if not all of these new systems use the same basic idea:  play music through a mechanism which toggles the music by cutting either high or low frequencies, or by adding or removing frequencies from the music by means of narrow band filters.  This done, the music now has a rather eerie sound – almost like the device on which you are playing the music, is broken.

Strangely enough, this electronic switching between low and high frequency bands or this filtering of certain frequencies which might irritate or hurt the ears/brain, has given immense relief to tens of thousands in Dr. Bérard’s practice and that of his successors over a period of over 40 years.

All sorts of disabilities benefit from AIT

Today (Bérard) Auditory Re-Training or Auditory Integration Training, as it later became known in the USA, is a world-wide answer to hearing loss, tinnitus, dyslexia, speech problems, lack of speech, balance and movement disorders, eye-hand coordination problems, sound sensitivity, speech discrimination problems, problems of muscle tone, neural integration problems, sensory integration problems (aural, tactile, oral, visual) and has proved to help restore mood (depression), assist immune function, improve tolerance of ambient noise in noisy environments, aid attention and concentration, improve memory, and restore social and communicative skills.

All, in all, AIT (Bérard or Tomatis-style) and its modern legacies, Electronic Ear, The Listening System, Samonas, The Steinbach Method, Bérard AIT, Auditiva, DAA, Kirby’s Method from Serious Composer, Ease Disc, FST, Listening Therapy and a new kid on the block, ORCA Diacoustics’ PC-Based AIT, all have one thing in common:  these all use electronically modulated music to effect change in the ear, auditory-vestibular nerve, brainstem, midbrain and cortex.  En route, these musical interventions change synapses, sharpen focus, bring about better discrimination, settle and fix memories, forge speech and language patterns, calm neuro-transmissions and bring about dynamic changes in the listener.  Some systems are more effective than others, but they all will change the brain to one degree or another.