Tomatis method

A few words about the Tomatis® method

The voice contains only what the ear hears
– Professor Alfred Tomatis

The Tomatis® method is a pedagogical method used to improve the listening of a person whose hearing functions incorrectly.
It works thanks to a device that causes musical contrasts by suddenly and unpredictably changing the timbre and intensity of the music.
This effect will surprise the brain and trigger its attentional mechanisms. We say that the brain puts itself in the listening position.

The goal of the Tomatis® method is to give to anyone wishing to learn a foreign language the possibility of truly appropriating these rhythms and sounds by allowing the ear to adapt itself effectively to this foreign music, so that it may analyze and reproduce it. This requires that students free themselves from the usual rhythmic and sonorous habits of their native language, habits that often have a negative influence on learning a new language.

A listening programme-audio therapy

Someone may hear well but listen poorly.

The sound message is correctly heard but poorly analyzed in an emotional framework. The brain protects itself by constructing barriers that can result in the development of various disorders. We say that “listening is disrupted”.

The Tomatis method stimulates the brain.

You can do the listening sessions repeatedly by using specially designed devices that stimulate the brain and progressively help it more effectively analyze  the sensory message.

Well-tuned listening can change your life.

The ear is not used only for hearing. It also stimulates the brain and establishes the balance. Well-tuned listening is therefore an essential component for promoting personal development.

Its action: the ear’s schematics

The Tomatis® method is a technique of sound sensory stimulation. Sound is transmitted, on the one hand, by bone conduction caused by a vibration in the upper part of the cranium, and on the other hand, by aerial conduction passing through the ear’s auricle. The sounds we use in our devices have been preliminary treated with the Tomatis effect in our laboratory, and thus stimulate the entire inner ear, including the parts that affect both auditory and motor functions. The sound propagates first in the tympan, and then by bone conduction, triggering a reflex that contracts and relaxes the two muscles known as the stirrup and hammer muscles. This effect is obtained by means of a perceptual sound contrast (a two-fold alternance of timbre and intensity) intended to “surprise” the ear.

As an effect of the vibration caused by the sounds, these muscles will in turn stimulate the parts of the inner ear known as the cochlea and the vestibule. The cochlea is lined with tiny cells called hair cells, whose purpose is to convert this vibration into electrical stimuli. These stimuli will then feed a vast neural network known as the reticular formation, which controls the overall level of cerebral activity. In other words, the cochlea and vestibule energize the brain; we say that it has a function of “cortical charging.”

Moreover, the vestibule informs the brain of the tiniest bodily movements and therefore has an effect on rhythm and balance. The coherence of the message that it transmits is thus fundamental. The ear must therefore be effectively stimulated.

Its function

Music

The chosen musical works are rich in harmonics (frequency-relative richness), which is necessary to make the electronic gating work. The works used are generally Mozart’s concertos for the violin, specially-treated with the TOMATIS effect.

Electronic gating creates the «Tomatis Effect»

The TOMATIS devices are designed to establish a unique sound perception contrast. This effect causes the contraction and relaxation of the inner ear muscles. This to-and-fro movement is made possible by the sudden transition from lower, bass frequencies, which do not require any particular effort on the part of the ear, to higher, acute frequencies, which require the ear to make a special effort to accommodate. This activity is much like a gymnastic exercise for the ear, which, thanks to repeated activity and to the progressive mobilization of the ear, optimizes the transmission of the sensory sound message to the brain.

The group: history and development

TheTomatis® method was created and perfected by Alfred Tomatis a French doctor who specialized in oto-rhino-laryngology. He devoted a significant part of his professional life to studying the relation between the ear and the voice, and by extension, between listening and communication.

His discoveries were made in the Sorbonne’s physiology laboratory and were then presented to the Academy of the Sciences and the Academy of Medicine in Paris in 1957 and 1960.

These discoveries were named the «Tomatis Laws»

• The voice only contains what the ear can hear.
• If hearing is modified, the voice is immediately and unconsciously modified.
• It is possible to transform phonation permanently by means of auditory stimulation undertaken over a certain time (the law of remanence).

Areas of application

  • Learning Difficulties and Language Disorders
  • Attention Disorders
  • Affective and Emotional Disorders
  • Communication Disorders
  • Psychomotor Difficulties
  • Pervasive Development Disorder(PDD)
  • Personal Development and Well-being
  • Improvement of the Voice and of Musicality
  • Preparation of Childbirth
  • Integration of Foreign Languages

Zachariou Language School, as a certified Tomatis Center, applies the Tomatis method for the improvement of foreign languages performance.

Integration of foreign languages

During its development, a child has to learn to select the sound elements that are compatible with its linguistic environment, and at the same time ignore those elements that are absent from the phonetic structures that it perceives in its usual surroundings.

The child will acquire a linguistic coding by adjusting to the sound structures of its own language. But because this coding is specific to each language, it will rapidly become a brake on the learning of a foreign language, insofar as the sounds of the foreign language do not conform to the sound patterns of its native language, which have been interiorized during infancy. A language is therefore first of all a kind of music, that is, an ensemble of specific rhythms and sounds. These rhythms and sounds constitute the fundamental sound substrate on which all other acquisitions will be based (for example, lexical, syntactical, and semantic acquisitions).

The goal of the Tomatis® method is to give to anyone wishing to learn a foreign language the possibility of truly appropriating these rhythms and sounds by allowing the ear to adapt itself effectively to this foreign music, so that it may analyze and reproduce it. This requires that students free themselves from the usual rhythmic and sonorous habits of their native language, habits that often have a negative influence on learning a new language.

FAQ

Will the Tomatis Method help in the case of hearing loss?

The Tomatis Method does not improve hearing in the case of an irreversible lesion; however, whatever the situation may be, it does foster optimal use of the individual's listening potential, no matter how weak it may be.

Why use filtered music?

Filtering up to around 4000 hertz permits the brain to orient itself toward the acoustic analysis of specific zones; listening to sounds that are even more filtered corresponds to a pre-natal experience, which does not, however, mean that the fetus does not hear low frequency sounds. According to Alfred Tomatis, if the ear is functional so early in fetal development, it is because its role is to energize the developing nervous system. It was in order to take advantage of this primordial competence of the ear during the prenatal phase that Alfred Tomatis decided to use filtered sound, the latter relieving the ear of its function of sound discrimination. Moreover, given the physiology of the inner ear, high frequency sounds produce a much greater stimulation of the nervous system than do low frequency sounds; indeed, the ciliae, or hair cells, that receive sonic stimulation are much more numerous in zones intended for the reception and analysis of high frequency sounds than in those designed to receive and analyze low frequency sounds.

Why use the music of Mozart?

After numerous trials with other types of music, we have found that the results obtained by using Mozart's music are amazing, no matter where in the world it is evaluated. In fact, we note that this music is not only very well accepted on every continent but that it also allows listeners to reestablish their own inner equilibrium. In order to understand this effect upon the sense of human balance, we must recall that music is characterized by rhythm, which touches the body; by harmony, which reaches the emotions; and by melody, which calls upon the intellect. According to the classical ideal, these three parameters should be in balance, which is rarely the case, one or the other often being dominant, and, for this reason, producing a rather unusual musical discourse. In the case of Mozart, it seems that this balance was achieved, which may explain the universal character of his music.

Why have pauses?

Just as the brain needs intensive and repeated stimulation in order for change to take place, it also needs periods of non-stimulation in order to structure and integrate the change.
This principle holds true for all kinds of training, integration taking place during a phase of apparent passivity after the effort has terminated.
It is, in fact, a phase of assimilation. Stimulation represents a disturbance of our organism; we must thus allow it resting time during which assimilation can take place.

That is why the normal procedure consists of an initial block of 13 days of daily two-hour periods of auditory stimulation with the Electronic Ear, followed by other 13-day blocks, generally limited in number given that the goal of the Tomatis® Method is always to lead the individual as rapidly as possible to a state of optimal self-reliance.

Why are the listening sessions done in an intensive manner?

In order for the brain's mode of perception to change, it must receive information repeated frequently at a sustained rhythm during a restricted time period.
This exercise, like any other, whether mental or physical in nature, brings about a true de-conditioning that allows the body to discover that it can operate differently, and that, henceforth, a choice is possible.

Even though this rule of intensive listening sessions is valid for everyone, the effects may be somewhat different according to the nature of the problem to be addressed, the age of the individual, his or her motivation, the time available to him or her, etc.

The norm is to do two hours of daily listening during an initial block of 15 days.

How long does the average Tomatis program last?

The length of a Tomatis® program varies according to the difficulty of the problem to be addressed.
That said, the listening program with the Electronic Ear should be of limited duration, if at all possible, the goal of the program always being to enable the individual to progress as quickly as possible to a state of optimal self-reliance.

For example, the number of program blocks in a Tomatis® Centre rarely exceeds three or four, the first block consisting of two hours per day for 15 days.

Can the Tomatis Method be dangerous?

No, because the Tomatis Method® is not a treatment in the medical sense of the term.
Even though it is used by specialists in the domains of medicine and related fields (paramedical), pedagogy, sports, and the arts, it is never used as a substitute for techniques specific to their area of expertise but rather as a complement, when appropriate, to reinforce the effectiveness of their own techniques.

In fact, the Tomatis Method® simply fosters, in a gentle manner, a return to normalcy, without ever producing a state of trauma or disequilibrium.
The individual recovers his/her own normal state, which has the twofold advantage of soothing him/her and of allowing him/her to maintain, without further effort, the improvement made during listening training with the Electronic Ear.

At what age does the Tomatis Method produce the best results?

Even though the Tomatis® Method is effective in any circumstances, there are certain conditions that may facilitate or impede the improvement that it produces.Thus, depending upon the nature of the problem, youth may be a facilitating factor; this is particularly the case when the problem is situated at the language level or the psychomotor level, or when it relates to scholastic performance.On the other hand, in the case of older individuals (adolescents and adults), personal motivation can often help overcome the difficulty associated with longstanding problems.In fact, there is no real age limit with respect to improvements that may be attained by using the Tomatis® Method; experience shows that, in the great majority of cases, good results can be achieved by individuals of all ages, whether children, adolescents, adults or the elderly.

Are the gains made during a Tomatis program lasting?

Yes, progress made during a Tomatis® program lasts.
This is because the gains made are not due to a conditioning but rather to a restoration of balance.
Indeed, even though the reasons for seeking help from the Tomatis® Method are many and varied, all are related to a malfunction and thus to a more or less severe state of neurophysiological disequilibrium.

Ear training with the Electronic Ear will, therefore, tend to lead the individual back toward a state of equilibrium, which, because it is a normal state, requires much less effort than a more or less severe state ofdisfunction.
We can state, then, that, in the great majority of cases, not only are gains made by the individual during the program maintained but also that progress may continue once the developmental process has been restored to its normal state.

How soon do the results of the Tomatis Method become noticeable?

The observable results of the Tomatis® Method must be analyzed on two levels, one rather superficial and the other deep-rooted.

On the superficial level, a number of apparent results can be perceived rather quickly within a few weeks or even a few days following the onset of listening sessions with the Electronic Ear.

For this reason, the Tomatis® Method is often experienced as a dynamic procedure that is easy to pursue both by the individual who is benefitting from it and by his/her close associates.

At a deeper level, it must be understood that the restructuring brought about by the Electronic Ear allows the individual to recover his or her own inner balance and, thus, to modify, in the best sense of the term, his/her own value system; this in-depth development is less spectacular and takes place at a slower pace.

One of the important points, then, is to recognize that these improvements are not only going to be maintained over time but also will continue well after the end of a Tomatis® listening program.

A well-conducted listening training program with the Electronic Ear will produce results lasting several years, the individual having been re-positioned in a state of evolving normalcy that only a major new event would be able to counteract.

What are the most obvious results of the Tomatis Method with respect of the children?

The most apparent results are often reported to the Tomatis® consultant by parents, who frequently notice an improvement of:

  • voice quality (spoken and sung)
  • concentration
  • comprehension
  • the ability to communicate
  • reading skill
  • oral and written expression
  • motor skills
  • speed
  • punctuality
  • a better sense of rhythm
  • self-reliance
  • general behavior (calm, open, etc.)