By Dianne Craft, MA, CNHP
We all enjoy music though most of us have considered it to be for recreation and relaxation. We have all sensed the power that music possesses that affects our mood but most of us have not considered the possibility that it can actually affect our learning ability nor have we been aware of its ability to open neuropathways in our brain.
Music is not only pleasant to listen to but sound is an important nutrient for the nervous system. An unborn baby can hear its mother’s voice in the womb at 16 weeks—the sound of mother’s voice nourishes and nurtures the baby’s nervous system. .Intrauterine listening is essential as its nurturing sound stimulates brain growth for language development, bonding and attachment. We have all heard of the “Mozart Effect” which involves the use of classical music to train the brain for language development and higher level thinking skills. Just as specific body movements (such as exercises that cross the body midline) and eye exercises re-train the brain, music powerfully re-trains the auditory processing system of a child. There are specific sonic exercises that are designed to strengthen the brain/auditory system just like a physical exercise would strengthen the body.Ear infections can leave a child with a less than optimal ability to perceive sound correctly long after the ear infections have passed which can lead to an auditory processing difficulty and can affect reading, phonics, spelling, and attention. Sometimes this processing weakness can be measured on an audiogram and sometimes it is so subtle that it cannot be measured. It is found that the cilia of the ear—the tiny hairs that are responsible for sound transference that are often damaged with repeated ear infections—can be encouraged to function more efficiently through the use of specific tones and frequencies of sound that are found in certain types of music.50 years ago, Dr. Alfred Tomatis, an ear, nose and throat surgeon from France, discovered that the ear is like a battery that converts sounds into electrical waves that charge the cortex of the brain. He created a system of re-training the auditory system by using specially-treated classical music that is pleasant to listen to. By listening to these specially-treated and recorded albums in the home, he found that this stimulation re-educated the auditory system to function properly. He also found that this auditory brain training helped children in organizing their thoughts, focusing attention, balance, phonics, reading, spelling, and in hearing and understanding oral instructions, particularly in the presence of background noise. His conclusion was that music has the ability to cause both subtle and profound changes in children.
There is a tremendous amount of noise pollution (hair blowers, lawn mowers, traffic, dishwashers, etc.) bombarding our children’s auditory and nervous systems daily. One of the ways we can combat this more destructive noise is to first realize that loud noises are perceived as stressors to the nervous system. We can go a long way in combating this daily assault by simply putting on soft background music throughout the day to help balance both their nervous system and auditory system. There is even specific music designed to help children concentrate with background noise. In classrooms where teachers are aware of this connection and regularly play specially prepared classical music softly in the background during seatwork, children are found to be able to concentrate much better and be more accurate in their work.
- Be aware of daily noise pollution in your home. Keep the mechanical noise to a minimum whenever possible. Play classical music softly in the background to reduce the effects of the extraneous noise and enhance learning. Mozart, Bach and Vivaldi are some composers that help with this process.
- To enhance listening ability further or to help a child struggling with auditory processing, attention, reading issues, etc., use a listening program of specially-treated music, employing headphones, and a regular schedule designed to gradually re-train the brain to process sound more efficiently.
As a special education teacher and a health professional, I am very aware of the importance of excellent nutrition for maximizing learning ability and reducing the effects of learning disabilities. Knowing that sound is another important nutrient and utilizing it through classical music to train the brain to process sounds more efficiently gives us another avenue to use to help our children. Sound affects us either negatively or positively: we can choose our children’s sound environment every day. We can even choose to use music in specific ways to restore auditory processing and other abilities that have been lost.
The neuroplasticity of the brain is quite amazing. Each decade new methods are being discovered that help heal and retrain the brain to function the way God intended it to function.
There are several programs available that are very helpful to many children:
The Listening Program.
This is a home-based therapeutic listening program that produces good results. More information: www.advancedbrain.com.
Auditory Integration Therapy (AIT).
This therapeutic listening program requires administration by a speech therapist in your area, but it produces very good results. More information: www.ait.com.
Sonomas Listening Program.
This therapeutic listening program requires administration by a professional in your area, but produces very good results. More information: www.sonomaslisteningtherapy.com.
The information in this article should not be construed as a diagnosis or medical advice. Please consult your physician for any medical condition and before adding supplements or changing a child’s diet.
Dianne Craft has a Master’s Degree in special education and is a Certified Natural Health Professional. She has a private consultation practice, Child Diagnostics, Inc., in Littleton, Colorado.