3.1 Alfred Tomatis.

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Who developed Sound Therapy?

Dr Tomatis, a French ear, nose and throat specialist, developed the particular filtering processes unique to Sound Therapy.

An internationally acclaimed doctor and inventor, Alfred Tomatis was born January 1st 1920 and died December 25th, 2001.

Tomatis invented Sound Therapy through a series of clinical experiments after he began his own branch of research in the 1950s. He was then working as an ENT in Paris, having completed his medical training after serving as an army doctor in the 2nd World War.

After suffering ill health in childhood, Tomatis was deeply touched by the dedication of the doctors who attended him. This was the inspiration for him to become a pioneering doctor himself and discover a completely new treatment approach.

Dr Tomatis was one of the remarkable pioneers of our time. An inventor, innovator and researcher, he gave us the practical application of Sound Therapy, a unique and valuable tool for healing and education.

His curiosity led him to investigate the influence of psychology on listening, and the active, volitional aspects of listening. The sound therapy method that he developed is known as audio-psycho-phonology, and it incorporates both a unique physical and psychological approach to hearing and listening.

Tomatis’s father was a well known opera singer and he referred many of his colleagues to Tomatis for treatment of their vocal issues. This was how Tomatis began his exploration of the relationship of the ear to the voice.

Through experimentation in his clinic, Tomatis learned about the impact of hearing on the voice.  Eventually he developed a device which he called the Electronic Ear which enabled him to filter sounds using particular patterns or algorithms to impact the ear and voice.

He was the first doctor to identify some key discoveries about the active functioning of our auditory system and how it impacts the brain.

As an embryologist, he was able to identify the ways that our hearing system develops, and the active role that is played by the middle ear muscles in our ability to tune into sound.

During his life he trained many other Sound Therapists and there are now about two hundred Tomatis centres around the world.

Tomatis authored many books and articles, his most well- known work being his autobiography, The Conscious Ear.

Tomatis was awarded with the following distinctions:

  1. Chavalier of public health 1951
  2. International Scientific Research Gold Medal at the Brussels World Fair (1959) awarded for the Tomatis Effect Electronic Ear.
  3. International Scientific Research Bronze Medal at the Brussels World Fair (1959) for the Tomatis Automatic Audiometer.
  4. Grande Medaille de Vermail of the City of Paris (1962)
  5. Clemence Isaure Prize. March 1967
  6. Arts, Science and Literature Gold medal. April 1968

How did Dr Tomatis invent Sound Therapy?

Through treating singers and workers with industrial deafness, Tomatis discovered how to use sound to enhance the ear’s responsiveness.

The Psychology of Hearing

Tomatis first became interested in the psychology of hearing when he was working with aeroplane mechanics and realised that the result of their hearing tests depended on their psychological response to the hearing test. i e did they hope to get a pension or were they afraid of losing their jobs?

He then worked with singers and found that by treating them with the Electronic Ear (which he invented) he could improve their hearing and also their voice. When he had singers monitor themselves with the right ear alone, their vocal range increased, and they sang with natural ease. He was able to restore the missing frequencies to the ear, and they were then automatically restored to the voice.Some of the acclaimed singers who have benefitted form the Tomatis method include Maria Callas and Sting

Dr Tomatis

Tomatis had the kind of enquiring mind that always goes beyond what it has been taught – the mind of a true scientist, which sees a phenomenon and asks “why could this be?” and then sets about finding out. To find out totally new information one must go outside of the parameters of existing disciplines.

Tomatis did this, and he made discoveries which bridge the disciplines of medicine, psychology, music therapy, speech therapy and special education. Tomatis’ new specialty, known as Audio-psycho-phonology does not fit inside any of these disciplines.

Tomatis highlighted the role that psychology plays in our ability to hear.

The entry point for Tomatis was when he became aware of the large psychological component of hearing. We are capable of tuning out our listening or of focusing it on a subject that interests us. The ear is directed by the mind, and without this direction it does not function.

Tomatis realised, therefore, that it was impossible to test hearing without taking the psychological element into account. It was clear to him that this inter-relationship represented a huge field of enquiry, which he then eagerly began to explore. He studied psychology and developed his own ideas about the psychology of hearing. Hearing is our means of verbal communication and thus it is the foundation upon which human relationships are built. The first of these relationships is always the relationship with the mother, which begins in the womb.

Tomatis was one of the first to investigate the auditory environment of the foetus. He discovered that babies could hear their mothers’ voice in the womb from 4 ½ months gestation. His theory was that the auditory relationship between baby and mother lays the foundation for all our other relationships and is therefore the crucial point of intervention to bring about change in the person’s psychological response to sound and language.

Tomatis identified that the foetus hears the mother’s voice in the womb. His theory of rebirth through sound asserts that this fundamental relationship is a basis for stored experience and an opportunity for profound healing.

Tomatis devised a system, by awakening the high frequency hearing, of taking the listener back through the auditory experience of being in the womb and first learning to identify sound. He called this process ‘sonic birth’.

After that he worked with children who had dyslexia or autism and was able to improve their verbal skills, their learning ability and their emotional responsiveness.