Our Q & A

Q: Why is listening to Mozart – or to music, for that matter – not sufficient? Why do we need this equipment and special headphones?

There are many CDs available – Mozart for learning, Mozart for memory, Mozart for kids, etc. Listening to harmoniously ‘rich’ music – whether composed by Mozart or by anyone else – is certainly beneficial and perhaps even sufficient. It just depends on what you want to achieve.

Listening Training, however, is something else. The music you listen to through these special headphones may not even always sound as attractive as listening to Classical Greatest Hits on Walkman or MP3 player. But then, it has to do more than sound attractive.

There are three components in the Training that cannot be copied by any CD. The first component is the Electronic Ear, a device for the ‘programming’ of sound according to a client’s needs, originally patented by Alfred Tomatis. The second is the headset, which will enable manipulation of the perception of that sound through both bone and air conduction. ‘Experiencing’ the sound to this degree is of enormous importance on a psychological and emotional level.

Thirdly, Listening Training provides a tailored programme for each child and each adult, addressing the various issues that have come up during the initial consultation – issues like laterality for instance.

Q: Why is laterality so important?

People can be right- or left-handed, right- or left-footed, have a dominant eye but also a dominant ear. The importance of ear dominance is often underestimated. The right ear is considered the social ear, the ear of direct interaction, and according to Tomatis should be the prevalent ear because of its connection to the left brain’s language centers.

If you are predominantly left-eared the information you take in through hearing is first fed into the right hemisphere of the brain, and has to be rerouted. That takes time which, albeit only fractions ofmilliseconds, is still of significance. In addition to this delay, the sound can get slightly distorted, especially the high pitched tones, which will create distorted perception as a result. A lot of dyslexic people are left-eared. With the electronic ear this dominance can be changed, which is a major advantage in improving verbal skills and communication.

Q: What is the connection between music and memory?

Learning music and playing an instrument (especially a string instrument) stimulates the left temporal lobe. This, in turn, encourages the development of the planum temporale, a part of the brain that is responsible for verbal memory. In this way, memory training occurs as a sort of by-product of musical training.

Q: Why Mozart?

For some, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was a genius, for others just a middle-of-the-road composer. Prof. Dr. Tomatis spent decades researching various composers, also comparing Western to Eastern music. But despite the beauty and the emotional impact of many other works of art, Mozart’s compositions seem to be the most effective in terms of the improvement of auditory skills, alertness etc. So Mozart has the so-called ‘X’ factor.

It has been thought that Mozart’s speculated suffering of Tourette’s Syndrome may be a reason for his work having these qualities, as if he intuitively wrote the very music that might have a healing effect on his own condition.

Although we use Mozart and Gregorian Chant as a basis of our programming, we may also occasionally choose to use the work of other composers, as well as varied ethnic/’world’ music from other cultures, to broaden the aural experience over a course of programming.

Q: What is the average length of the programme?

Programmes are tailored to the client’s needs and will naturally depend on the particular individual issues involved. An average course of programming would normally entail a minimum of sixty hours of Listening, divided over three blocks of time. But there are exceptions to any rule. We will always give you an estimate at the time of the initial assessment, and then discuss progress after every ten hours into the program me.

Q: Why can’t I just come and listen in one go?

You can. Ideally there are breaks, just to have some extra time to integrate the changes. They may be subtle, and it is prefered to go slow and experience progress step by step. Especially with children, I’d recommend giving the process some time. Even while you are in your ‘break period’, the effects will still continue to unfold.

But we do certainly cater for people who do not have the time to do this and who would rather listen twice a day, or more hours in one session. When you come in for the assessment we can discuss your preferences and options.

Q: There are many centres in many different countries. Do they all work in the same way?

I have some experience with this and would say: “Yes, and no”. The tools, the principles behind their use, and also some protocols will be more or less the same, but each individual therapist will still develop his or her own style.

Even during the exams, where each of us had to write programmes on the basis of certain case histories, there was quite a variation in interpretation of the Listening Tests, for instance. And that is fine, of course, as long as the major guidelines are in place. There are networks in various countries.

Joya is independent, and as a residential centre it is the first of its kind in New Zealand. We literally are a bit ‘on an island’ here, but in the long run that will change. There are a growing number of people who prefer the non-pharmaceutical approach to brain-related problems, especially with regards to their children.

Q: Why are there various Tomatis-based networks and not just one?

I’ll explain my own experience in this respect. I set out to be part of the wider community of Tomatis centres. When I received my certification in London, I initially wanted to take over a centre in Cologne, and be part of the German affiliation of Tomatis consultants.

Then my children and I decided to move to New Zealand instead. I contacted the Sydney centre in order to become part of the Australasian network. By then I had already worked in the London centre and was certified, but London was part of another network – the Tomatis Foundation set up by Tomatis shortly before he moved to Canada. And in order to also be able to join the Australasia group I was advised to do another practicum in the Sydney centre, since some of the protocols and methodologies might differ.

I agreed, joined the other trainees and successfully sat another exam. Ironically, although I am now twice certified, I eventually decided not to join the Australasian network, mainly due to financial restrictions that would bring, as well as the growing ‘corporisation’ of the organisation. I prefer working one on one with a client something that wouldn’t have been viable if I would have stayed.

So I decided to start on my own, a decision I have not regretted because it gives me the freedom to be flexible with my time and rates. I still have contacts with colleagues in Europe, Australia and theUS and keep up to date with new international research & training through the NICABM (National Institute for the Clinical Application of Behavioural Medicine).

Over time I have noticed that I am not the only one who decided to step away from the corporate approach. A lot of European and American centres are on their own now, although we are still loosely connected through personal contacts.

Q: What about the results – are they lasting?

Yes, which is really one of the great benefits of the method, of course. What has been gained is a new balance, a different attitude, better voice, better posture, all of these things. It is my experience that the effect does not stop on the last day of your Listening Training, but rather that the Listening creates room for positive development of a much greater potential than you would have expected beforehand. That is part of the beauty of the work!

Do you have questions? Feel free to ask Paulina.