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Sound Therapy Research Summary

Sound Therapy International aims to raise world wide awareness so that all associated specialties and professions will include Sound Therapy in their recommendations. A summary of the science of the Tomatis method and ongoing sound therapy research is given here, references included.

Background on Sound Therapy Research

In the 1940s Dr Tomatis, a Paris based ear, nose and throat specialist conducted clinical trials with singers, aeroplane mechanics and others to determine how their hearing was affected and whether it could be improved.

He went on to develop a method of treatment which addresses hearing and listening from both the physical and the psychological aspects. Through his experiments he also discovered that high frequency sounds, softly played stimulate and replenish brain energy, and are in fact essential for optimum functioning of the cortex.

The Tomatis Method

As his initial concern was with hearing loss, Tomatis’ first experiments dealt with altering the auditory curve.

When there is loss of hearing in a particular frequency it is generally not a total loss – it just means that those frequencies where there is a scotoma are heard at a lower level. Tomatis designed an apparatus called the Electronic Ear, which could manipulate the frequencies of sounds, so it could match a sound to the person’s auditory curve, or it could do the opposite. It could boost the deficient frequencies to make the person hear as a normal ear would hear.

Initially Tomatis worked with singers who had lost certain frequencies from their voices. He found that the dead spots in the voice exactly matched the dead spots on the audiogram, and by correcting the hearing with the Electronic Ear he could restore the missing frequencies to the voice.

Thus he formed his first law: “The voice contains only those sounds that the ear can hear.” This discovery was given official recognition in 1957 by the French Academy of Science as the “Tomatis Effect.” In 1958 Tomatis’ invention, the Electronic Ear won a gold medal for scientific research at the Brussels International Exposition.

The Self Help Method

Patricia Joudry, a Canadian author, underwent the Tomatis treatment in the late 1970s and experienced total relief of her chronic insomnia, exhaustion, writers block and the listening disorder for which she was first referred to the treatment. This is known as “The Cocktail Effect”, which is the inability to discriminate between different sounds in a noisy environment.

Patricia and her daughter, Rafaele Joudry, then released the self help Sound Therapy audio program along with their book: Sound Therapy: Music to Recharge your Brain. Rafaele has since published two further books entitled Triumph Over Tinnitus and Why Aren’t I learning?

Research Results

In the last few decades there have been numerous controlled studies, surveys, clinical experiments and case histories, which confirm the benefits of the Tomatis method for a variety of conditions. A summary of these sound therapy research studies follows.

Tinnitus, hearing and associated problems

Jordan (1989) treated between two and three hundred people who had been seen by an ENT specialist and told that nothing could be done for their tinnitus. He undertook a clinical study and reported that for the majority of patients Sound Therapy alleviated their tinnitus to the point where they were able to enjoy life a lot more. Some of the younger patients achieved total remission and as they were not on any medication there were no apparent contributing factors other than the Sound Therapy. A number of Jordan’s patients also reported an improvement in their hearing.

Joudry, (1994) conducted a three year survey of 388 respondents where 45% to 100% of subjects showed symptomatic improvement in tinnitus, hearing loss, stress, fatigue, sleep problems, learning difficulties, speech problems, depression, headaches, jet lag and general well being. 93% of subjects observed some positive results in at least one area.

Reading and behaviour

Sandislands (1989) Compared 32 underachieving children with a control group of 40. The treated group showed greater improvements in listening, oral reading and behaviour.

Rintel and Rintel (1995) conducted a study in Brisbane in 1995 using the Joudry Sound Therapy program on children in a remedial learning program. An experimental and a control group were used, each consisting of seven children. Five normed tests were administrated to the children. The general trend was that the experimental group advanced faster than the control group in Distractibility, Overactive behaviour, Reading improvement, Left/right confusion and Misinterpretation of questions.

Bell, (1991) ran a case study using the Joudry program on a Year 2 boy with delayed development who showed improved social behaviour and began to read.


Weiss (1985) found that three theatre students after seven months of Sound Therapy showed a shift of vocal energy to the higher frequencies and better articulation.

Language disorders

Wilson (1982) found pre-school language disordered children showed statistically significant improvement in their ability to express thoughts and feelings in words. The study gives a strong indication that the Tomatis approach is useful when used with pre-school learning disabled children.

Van Wyk, (1974) compared 20 stutterers with 20 normal speakers and found that more stutterers have left ear dominance, confirming Tomatis’ hypothesis of the importance of right auditory laterality.

Badenhorst (1975) found that right-eared people communicate more easily, confirming Dr Tomatis’ theory of right ear dominance.

Jaarsveld (1974) found in a group of 43 stutterers, 82% got significant relief from the treatment and 54% retained the improvement for a year or more.

Self Concept

Gilmor (1982) Found improvement in children and adolescents’ self concept, social and family relations and certain language and motor skills.


Rourke and Russel (1982) compared experimental and control groups and found improvement in IQ of learning disabled children under Tomatis treatment.


Roy and Roy (1980) examined the effect of the Tomatis method on five dyslexic boys and showed improved cognitive control and audio-vocal control in four of the subjects.

Anxiety and depression

Peche (1975) studied a group of 10 students and found that Sound Therapy helps to alleviate anxiety and remove psychic blocks, indicating its benefits in conjunction with psychotherapy.

Botes (1979) found improved relationships and self-concept in an in depth study of three clients with neurotic depression.

Du Plesis (1982) in a long term study over 14 months with subjects carefully selected from a survey of 424 people, showed improved mental health and self actualization for both 10 anxious and 10 non anxious people as compared to a control group.

Intellectual disability

De Bruto (1983) found a statistically significant increase in the mental age of profoundly retarded children after Tomatis treatment.


  1. Bell, E. An Ethnographic Report and Evaluation of the Implementation of Audio­Psycho-Phonology (Sound Therapy) in the Support of Timothy. Griffith University Thesis (unpub.) 1991.
  2. Joudry, P. and Joudry, R. Sound Therapy: Music to Recharge your Brain. Sound Therapy Australia, Sydney 1999
  3. Joudry, R. Sound Therapy Manual for Practitioners, Sound Therapy Australia, Sydney 2000
  4. Jordan (1989), personal correspondence, cited in Joudry, R. Sound Therapy Manual for Practitioners, Sound Therapy, Sound Therapy Australia, Sydney 2000.
  5. Rintel, E and D. Sound Therapy for the Learning Disabled Child: The Effect of High Frequency Filtered Music on Listening and Learning Ability. Brisbane, 1995.
  6. Sandislands, M. The Tomatis Listening Training Program: A Quasi-Experimental Field Evaluation, International Journal of Special Education 1989
  7. Stutt, Howard A. The Tomatis Method: A Review of Current Research. McGill University, 1983.
  8. Tomatis, A.A. The Conscious Ear. Station Hill Press. New York, 1991.
  9. Ivan Jaarsveld, P.E. and du Plessis, W.F.
  10. Audio-psycho-phonology at Potchefstroom: A review. Potchefstroom University of Higher Education, 1988.
  11. Wilson, B.C., Iacoviello, J.M., Metlay W., Risucci D., Rosati, R. & Palmaccio, T., Tomatis Project Final Report. The Listening Centre, Ontario,1992.

Men hear better than women…at parties

Men hear better than women – at parties 

Men are more capable of separating relevant sounds from background noise at parties, a German study has found. The reason may be that in the early days of humanity men were the ones who went hunting for food.

Many of us know the situation; at a party you would like to talk to a person but this can be quite exhausting due to the background noise. The words of your conversation partner are drowned out by the conversation of others and the music. We have to concentrate on the voice of the person we are talking to and separate the relevant sounds from the background noise. Our attention system is therefore highly stressed. This is known as “the cocktail party phenomenon”.

German researchers have found that men hear better at parties and are more capable of separating relevant sounds from the background noise.

Natural selection and evolution

The researchers from the Neurological Clinic of the University Hospital and the Hertie Institute for Clinical Brain Research (HIH) in Tübingen, Germany, found that the audio-spatial abilities of men are more highly developed than those of women. The researchers think that men’s ability to hear better at parties may be due to the different evolutionary requirements of the sexes. Over time men have developed these spatial abilities as a result of natural and sexual selection throughout human evolution.

“Men were the ones who hunted for food. Here, attention performance was extremely important. Thus prey could be localised by noise before it could be seen,” said Ida Zündorf and Prof. Hans Otto Karnath from the University Hospital in Tübingen.

The study

In the study, the participants were asked to listen to sounds and determine the location of the sound source. In a first test, sounds were presented one at a time and both women and men accomplished the task with great accuracy. In a further test, several sounds were presented at the same time and the participants had to focus on and localise only one sound. The latter was much more difficult for women. In some cases women even thought that the sounds were coming from the opposite direction.

Source: Hörakustik, 9/2011, www.sciencedaily.com


Rintel research study explores the link between children’s hearing, reading and spelling abilities

Elizabeth Rintel and Derek Rintel conducted a study in Brisbane in 1995 using the Joudry Sound Therapy system on children in a remedial learning program. An experimental and a control group were used, each consisting of seven children. The experimental group (E group) received the Joudry Sound Therapy listening program and the control group (C group) listened to the same music without the Sound Therapy recording method. Due to time limitations the children received only 32 hours of treatment, which is less than the recommended minimum of 100 hours. This study can therefore be said to only partially demonstrate the effectiveness of the program.

Five normed tests were administered to the children. These were:
1) Test of Auditory discrimination (TAD); Goldman-Fristoe-Woodcock. (AGS 1970) revised 1976 using a standard audio cassette.
2) Neale Analysis of Reading Revised (Neale 1987)
3) Neale Analysis of Reading Revised (Neale Comprehension.)
4) Westwoood Spelling (1979)
5) Schonell Spelling Test

Parent and teacher observations were recorded on: Distractability, Overactive behavior, Reading improvement, Left/right confusion and Misinterpretation of questions.

The general trend on most of the indices of standard tests and parent-teacher observations was that the experimental group advanced faster than the control group.