Neuroplasticity refers to the brain’s ability to continue to form new pathways throughout our lives. In much the same way that we can build our muscles through strength training and develop our heart and lungs through aerobic exercise, we can also build new neural pathways by “exercising” our brains.
One way to retrain the brain is through listening therapy, which combines altered music, bone conduction, and movement activities to provide simultaneous multisensory input to the brain and body. Cognitive activities can also be added over time to challenge the brain to process multiple pieces of information at once.
Listening therapy is especially beneficial for children, teens, and those recovering from injury. Listening therapy has the potential to lead to better academic outcomes through improved reading comprehension, concentration, and memory, and to an increased ability to control impulses, self-regulate behavior and engage appropriately with others.
How is the music altered?
Filters remove certain frequencies from the music. Faster frequencies have a higher pitch, while lower frequencies have a lower pitch. The filters may remove the higher frequencies, allowing the child to perceive only the middle and lower range, the lower frequencies so he can hear only the middle and higher range, or both so he perceives only the middle range.
What is bone conduction?
We can hear sounds not just through our ears, but through our bones! Sounds emit vibration which travels along the bones of the skull to the bony housing around the inner ear. This vibration causes movement of fluid in the inner ear, resulting in the activation of nerves. Many areas of the brain, including areas that affect balance, coordination, muscle tone, rhythm, and awareness of the body in space, are affected. All of these areas have a strong impact on attention and emotional regulation.
Does the program require special equipment?
Listening therapies are typically delivered through headphones rather than speakers because the quality of sound is controlled and background noise is minimized. The headphones used are also very different from ones you can buy in a retail store. First, the headphones capture the entire range of frequencies used in the program – most standard headphones can’t do that. Second, the headphones allow bone conduction through use of a small transducer, like a hearing aid. This transducer converts the sound to vibration.
What does a typical listening program look like for a child?
Depending on the age of the child, the amount of time listening will vary. A younger child may listen for thirty minutes a day, while a teenager may listen up to an hour. A minimum of three times per week is recommended. The child follows a program recommended by a therapist certified in the program, which includes the sequencing of musical selections and duration and timing of listening times. In addition to listening, the therapist may suggest specific visual, balance, and movement activities in order to help strengthen neurological pathways and improve the ability to learn and process information.
Some of the areas in which a listening program can have a positive impact include:
For Learning and Attention
- Reading fluency and comprehension
- Sensory and auditory processing
- Language skills: speech, processing, and articulation
For Autism/Sensory Challenges
- Social skills
- Emotional regulation
- Sensory processing
- Fine and gross motor skills
For Trauma and Anxiety
- Social and emotional difficulties
- Auditory sensitivities
- Stressors that impact social engagement
- Anxiety and trauma-related challenges
For Brain Function
- Focus and sustained concentration
- Cognitive and motor multi-tasking, coordination
- Emotional balance and confidence
- Sensory and cognitive processing
Interested in learning more about listening programs? Kid’s Creek Therapy is pleased to be a certified provider for the Integrated Listening Systems (ILS) Focus System. Ask your child’s therapist for more information or contact us for a free consultation.
Image Courtesy of Integrated Listening Systems/Title Added