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.

Testimonials For The Brain

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Musical spark
Patricia Proenza, Finchley, London, U.K.:

There have been changes, which I hardly dare believe are happening. There has been a reawakening of the musical ‘spark’ within me. Having been trained as a pianist and taken a degree in Music and also composed, my life seemed to fall apart in my early twenties, when suffering a severely strained shoulder which didn’t seem to get better. This was accompanied by mental misery and there seemed to be a gradual withdrawing of the creative energy, as playing was always accompanied by physical pain and mental anguish. As life got more complicated in many areas I gave up piano teaching and stopped practicing, since there was no spark there, no desire. Only pain and guilt at not having developed a God-given gift.

That was fifteen years ago, so what is happening now, the beginning of a reawakening, is for me a miracle. Although physically much stiffer and with aches and pains, I am so thrilled that the fire inside has been re-ignited, even if it is a small flame. I have recently composed a piece of music, which although not in original style, is at least a beginning.

I have realized too that I have improved mentally – I seem to be more positive, brighter, and much less prone to feelings of despair, unworthiness etc. My friends have noticed quite a difference in me – more than I have, as the changes have been gradual.

New vocal range
Melanie King, singer-composer, Melbourne, Australia:

“I have had some beautiful benefits from using the tapes – trebled energy, less sleep needed, steadier moods, more focused concentration – and I have notes in the top of my vocal range which are brand new.”

P.S., some months later: “My voice continues to soar eaglebound in new ways!”

Creative potential opened
Herbert Spanier, Toronto, Canada:

“My immersion into the world of Sound Therapy has had several positive results. A strikingly noticeable one was in my work as musical performer and composer, where my creative potential was dramatically opened up. The compliments I am receiving for my concerts, where improvisation is a key, are more numerous and enthusiastic, and this from contemporaries and audiences alike. Also in the areas of stress and fatigue, considerable modification is being observed.”

Ed Rohner, President, United Fretters Ltd., Saskatoon:

“The greatest benefit that Sound Therapy has had for me so far is in the area of hearing. I have a noticeable improvement in hearing and need less volume on my Walkman all the time. Also, I’m aware of having acquired the capacity for more highs. Most important of all for a musician, I am getting closer to pitch. I find I’m able to compensate the tuning which is required on any string instrument. With the increase in musical perception I am getting much more critical of sound. I firmly believe that a person who was tone deaf would be able to change that condition with Sound Therapy.

Spontaneity and flow
Tony Richards, Rebirth Practitioner:

“I am writing to you to let you know the benefits I have been receiving from the sound therapy program. I have been listening now for 370 hours. The first thing I noticed was a vast increase in the amount of colorful and vivid dreams. For many years I seemed not to be dreaming at night and awoke with hardly any recall. I am really enjoying my ” Dream Life” now!.

I am interested in music and play the guitar. It has not been easy in the past re stringing the instrument and tuning up as Tinnitus has got in the way of hearing some of the higher frequency sounds. However I have experienced a reduction of the level of tinnitus in the right ear and a different perception of the way I have experienced tinntus in the left ear so some dynamic must be shifting!. Overall my practice of the guitar has improved greatly, with much more spontaneity and flow.

Thank you so much for your sound therapy program, it is really proving valuable in my life.”

Confidence in speaking
Jeff Johnson, Graduate Student, Dept. of Humanities, Buffalo, USA:

“Not only has Sound Therapy enhanced my learning capabilities, but it has greatly increased my confidence in speaking. Being a graduate student means that you must be able to speak with authority to groups of highly intelligent people. In the past I have been too shy and self-doubting to give such presentations with any confidence. They were the most anxiety-provoking situations of my life. My hands used to shake and I would be wet with perspiration before beginning to speak. Not anymore. I carry my Sony Walkman and tapes in my briefcase, and for a time before speaking I immerse myself in the recharging sounds of the music. I find then that I am perfectly at ease before large groups, and my presentations go without a hitch. Sound Therapy has helped me so much with my professional life that I’ve given it my own special name; I call it Confidence Therapy, because confidence was the area in which I was most lacking, and I now feel like a new man!”

Crosswords, social skills, voice
Claude Heppell, Rimouski, Quebec, Canada:

“The most recent effect of my Sound Therapy, after l4 months of listening to the tapes, is rather amusing: for I have lately discovered a capability of doing crosswords, at which I had slaved in vain in the past.

As a purely visual person, it took me a long time to realize effects with these tapes. I was patient and persistent, as I enjoyed the music and found that I missed it when I skipped a day. Gradually I found myself becoming a more social person, feeling more and more love for others, with a powerful new capacity to interact and create in volunteer groups for old people. I am 46, and whereas one might say this was a natural maturation, I believe that, on the contrary, change is more difficult as we get older.

A few months ago, singing some folksongs for my own pleasure, I realized I had more ability to strike the right notes than before. And when I speak, my voice, which I disliked until recently, is gradually becoming more resonant, warm, and well controlled. All thanks to the Sound Therapy cassettes and Walkman.”

Cynthia Connell Davis, West Warwick, Rhode Island, U.S.A.

“Specifically — I can testify that within a week after beginning my listening to the first tape I was able to write the plot for a novel. I have never before been able to envisage a plot for fiction, though I have been able to write all other aspects of fiction. (Don’t try to imagine my frustration.)

Apparently I suffer from a mild, erratic but progressive dyslexia and a reversal of (brain) sphere dominance. Improvement – as well as more patience, better listening capacity, more empathy for my writing students, decreased anxiety and depression and fatigue — has been steady and I am tremendously enthusiastic about sound therapy.”

Lifted a veil from my ears
Lilian Caro, Perth, Western Australia:

I have suffered from insomnia and chronic back pain for many years and to make things worse, a disc problem developed early last year in my lower back and I haven’t been able to sit properly for nearly 18 months!

I’m currently in the early stages of separating from my husband (having been married for 16 years). Both my daughter and I have suffered much psychological and emotional abuse which I know has been the cause of many of my health problems.

During the middle of August last month, my 11-year-old daughter and I had to seek urgent refuge at a “safe house”. We ended up staying in a small empty apartment next to a busy main road on the other side of town. The apartment was undergoing renovations and the telephone wasn’t connected and there was no food or furniture, although we were given a mattress, sheets, pillows, a TV and a few items of extra clothing, with a few items of food to last until the next day.

To say the least, the stress I was under was enormous – I didn’t know how long we would have to be in this apartment either.

Thankfully, there was an electric clothes dryer for us to use but my nervous system was so taxed by exhaustion and stress that I found the noise from it going proved to be very unpleasant!

It was during the middle of this crisis that I received the Basic Sound Therapy Kit and Panasonic Walkman (God worked a miracle here!). I purchased some batteries and decided to begin listening to one of the tapes the same night I received the kit. I chose to listen to the third tape (not realizing that you’re supposed to start with the first one, as I hadn’t read the instructions properly) and to my amazement, the sound of the electric dryer going the next day didn’t bother me at all!

After just one night of listening to the sound Therapy cassette tape (about 8 hours), I couldn’t believe the difference!!!

Since then, I have been listening to these tapes each night and I have noticed an improvement with my singing and music. It’s as though a “veil” has been lifted from my ears and my hearing of the notes and sound vibrations is so much clearer and guitar playing has been more enjoyable.

The playing experience transformed
James W. Bragg, Kentucky:

“Sound Therapy has transformed my life. I’ve been listening to the tapes for two months, and while I started feeling subtle effects almost immediately, the real change occurred about five weeks into the program.

To give a brief history: I have spent a lifetime surrounded by a good deal of noise, but always had sufficient energy until about 1972. I was building my house and using power saws and an assortment of very loud motorized tools. After less than a year of this, my energy level dropped to virtually nil – five minutes of work followed by thirty minutes of rest. It got progressively worse, and I was very worried. Loud sounds drove me frantic.

I teach piano at Morehead State University. Piano playing became extremely difficult for me. It got so I could hardly stand to do it. I have played publicly only three or four times since then, with three to five year rests between performances, and I was never satisfied with the results. It always seemed as if a short circuit existed in my expressive mechanism. I was aware of a lack of connection in the heart area and the parallel area in the spine, and worked very hard to think it together. Needless to say, it never worked.

Well, let me tell you! My sound has changed, and I love to play! The playing experience has been transformed. I seem to be hearing back the sound that I go for, and that affects the way I make the next sound. The musical cycle is now complete. With the experience of musical sounds being so greatly deepened and expanded, I am liking music which previously bored me and adoring music which I previously liked OK. The implications for the learning and teaching of music with this therapy are vast.

Then, for many years I have had great trouble with my shoulders, upper spine and neck. It was never comfortable and the shoulders often painful in the extreme. Yoga made it worse. Activity hurt. I was a virtual cripple. I began to see a chiropractor, who said my upper spine was severely misaligned. During this period I began the Sound Therapy. At between five and eight weeks he was mystified to notice that the natural curvature of my spine was fully restored and assured me that he had not done it. He said he had never seen such a thing or heard of such a thing and would probably be drummed out of the profession if he wrote it up for a medical journal. My posture is transformed and I have real shoulders at last! This is obviously reflected in my playing since the shoulders are extremely important in piano playing.

In addition, I have had an elusive speech problem since childhood. Sometimes the speech was fluent and easy; other times it simply would not come out. I literally could not talk. Most people were not aware of it, since I ‘cleverly’ disguised my problem by acting ‘professorial’ – thinking a lot and talking very little and slowly. All of this had a devastating effect on my personality, creating mood swings which were violent and unexpected. Resultingly, depression became an old, old friend.

Now this is all changed. I can talk! Mood swings are very mild and no longer a problem. I truly feel that I am being myself for the first time in my life. I know who I am. Energy is greatly increased; stamina and endurance greatly improved. I sleep from two to four hours a night and awake feeling marvellous. Just call me Lazarus!”

Richer flute tone
Jocelyn Bealt, New Plymouth New Zealand:

I was most grateful that you forwarded to me another tape after I returned my broken one to you. This is my second session of using the tapes, and I am so excited at how they have helped my singing and my flute playing.

I have played flute for many years but since listening to the tapes, my tone has a richer quality and my singing voice is purer with richer harmonics. I keep wondering how could this be? Is it my imagination? But no, I am sure the tapes have helped open up some part of my brain/ear/neck/posture, maybe all four!!

Many thanks and all the very best for a happy Christmas to you all.

Mental clarity, family harmony, creativity
Dr. Cliff Bacchus, Governor’s Harbour, Eleuthera, Bahamas:

“I was introduced to the Sound Therapy cassette system in the winter of I983, and began listening to the music on the day that I purchased my Sony Walkman in Miami. I listened for about six hours a day during the first three days, while making my way about through the noise and confusion of that city, and also during the flight back to my island of Eleuthera. After these three days I was aware of an energy and mental clarity such as I had not experienced since before entering University, many years earlier. One notable happening during the first week was that, whereas I had never before had the patience – or stamina at the end of a day of seeing patients – to play Backgammon with my young daughter, as she constantly pleaded for me to do, I could now spend a whole evening with her at this game, wearing my headphones and listening to the therapy music. Thus, there was an immediate improvement in family harmony. After ten days of listening, there was a change in the character of my dreams. I had had great difficulty in remembering my dreams, while knowing that they usually verged on the nightmarish. Listening to the therapy music for a time before going to sleep, I began having vivid, happy dreams, with the clarity and purity of childhood dreams: sailing away on a Caribbean cruise; flying through the high air from Hawaii to Tahiti. I also remembered the dreams in detail. At the same time, my creative doors flew open. I began rising earlier in the mornings and listening to the music during several hours of creative writing, which preceded my office hours. I now sleep better, think better, write better, and am eager to get all my patients onto Sound Therapy – particularly the pregnant women, and the children with learning problems.”

Musical pitch
Ed Rohner, President, United Fretters Ltd., Saskatoon, Sask., Canada:

“The greatest benefit that Sound Therapy has had for me so far is in the area of hearing. I have a noticeable improvement in hearing and need less volume on my Walkman all the time. Also, I’m aware of having acquired the capacity for more highs. Most important of all for a musician, I am getting closer to pitch. I find I’m able to compensate the tuning which is required on any string instrument. With the increase in musical perception I am getting much more critical of sound. I firmly believe that a person who was tone deaf would be able to change that condition with Sound Therapy.