If you look up sound therapy in the medical dictionary you will find a definition akin to something like this:
The art of using sound as a therapeutic modality that is linked to the release or several factors including hormones and the harmonic factor. It is believed that sound therapy affects our physiological parameters including aspects such as heart rate, breathing, neuromuscular tone and blood pressure. Sound therapy is useful in a wide range of holistic care for patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, dentistry, childbirth, psychotherapy as well as in hospice environments for those who are terminally ill.
Over the past few years, it has been theorized that sound therapy can and does help with cases of tinnitus. The efficacy of this treatment is still questioned by some doctors, but research has shown that people suffering from ear ringing do get some level of relief when they use sound therapy machines in conjunction with other forms of therapies.
The science is simple enough: sound therapy trains the brain to ignore the irritating ringing, buzzing or hissing sound that comes with tinnitus. In some cases, tinnitus patients have reported seeing excellent results such as:
- Reduced irritation from the ear ringing sensation (by up to 50%)
- Reduced stress and anxiety that comes with tinnitus
- Improved quality of life
The truth is, sound therapy does work, and it works for more than just tinnitus. In fact, in the past, it has been used to heal a wide range of conditions including:
- High blood pressure
Most of all, sound therapy has been used to make the terminally ill more comfortable and improve their quality of life. Whether you believe that sound therapy can do wonders for tinnitus or not does not change the fact that scores of people are finding this form of therapy very beneficial in their lives. That, in itself, should be enough to give sound therapy a great degree of legitimacy even in the eyes of allopathic medicine. So, what is sound therapy?
What is Sound Therapy?
To understand sound therapy, you first must understand music. No, we are not talking about the chromatic scale or anything like that; we are talking about understanding what music means to us as a species.
Music has been in our blood since…well, since we first had blood. All you have to do to confirm that is take a stethoscope to your chest and listen to your heartbeat. After a while, your heartbeat will start sounding rhythmic.
Today, we use music to pretty much pass all kinds of messages in our society. We use it for:
Music is something that connects us all as a species, whether you have rhythm or not you can still appreciate music. Heck, music is something that even connects us to our deities as we sing praises and worship. We use music for everything, and most importantly, we use it for healing.
Music is quite simply therapeutic. Think about it:
- How many times have you listened to sad country love songs when you are heartbroken?
- How many times have you listened to upbeat music just because you are in a good mood and want to keep it going?
- How many times have you listened to music to get yourself out of a funk?
Music does wonders to us, and it has a way of healing whatever emotional or psychological turmoil we might be facing. Turns out, it has a way of healing a great number of maladies as well including tinnitus.
The History of Sound Healing
Sound is perhaps one thing that has been around throughout recorded history. In the Bible, John 1:1 says that ‘In the beginning was the Word’. It’s not just recorded in Christianity; other religions also have sound as one of the very first things to exist. The Vedic texts say that Lord Vishnu sits on a shoreless cosmic ocean and the silence is broken with the cosmic hum that we now know as the ‘Aum’ sound.
In ancient Greece, it is said that Apollo was the god of medicine and music. Great legends like Aesculapius are believed to cure a wide array of mental disorders with an assortment of songs.
Even respected philosophers like Aristotle and Plato believed that music had the power to affect both souls and human emotions. Great physicians like Hippocrates take to playing music for his patients because he believed the soothing sounds carried with them some form of therapeutic power.
Ancient Kings, royalty and peasants alike all paid great homage to music. They used it as we do today, to celebrate, soothe their woes and to pacify the masses. In Biblical times, the idea of sound therapy is taken a notch higher as it is used to vanquish possessive evil spirits from our souls.
In Native American culture, song and dance are used to both heal the sick and communicate with their ancestors.
While it is easy to say that all this is well and good, but it is in the past, all you have to do to dispel those doubts is to look at the use of sound healing in the more recent past. In the 1940s the U.S Military started using music as a part of their regimen for recuperating soldiers wounded in battle during World War II.
Today, it is used in a wide array of healing therapies that are typically practiced by alternative medicine practitioners. As such, it is easy to assume and dismiss people who believe in sound therapy as hippies or new age crockpots who are out to scam people.
However, the healing powers of music and sound are what most sound therapy machines are based on and use to make tinnitus patients much better. This is actually based on scientific research and experiments. So, what exactly is sound healing?
What is Sound Healing?
Sound healing is the process through which an expert practitioner uses several, if not all, aspects of music to greatly improve the health and emotional wellbeing of their patient. The aspects of music used in sound healing include:
Over the years, it has been apparent that sound healing offers the patients a great deal of improvement in many facets of their lives including the emotional aspects, social development, psychological, psychiatric, cognitive and even motor functioning.
There are a lot of ways through which sound healing takes place. The most common involves the patient taking part in the experience by:
- Listening to certain types of music with specific tones
- Singing along
- Meditating to the music
- Playing of certain musical instruments
Sometimes, the patient might even be required to subject themselves to specially crafted or computer-generated sounds that are designed to induce positive brain waves or alter moods.
What is the Science Behind Sound Therapy?
It is believed that everything we experience in this universe has a lot to do with our perception of waves. Sound is instantaneously converted to electrical signals when it reaches our ears. These signals then travel through the auditory nerve to the auditory cortex which is the part of the brain that is tasked with processing sound.
When these sound waves reach our brains, depending on what frequency they possess, they can trigger an array of responses which include the release of hormones, alteration of our mood and the release of chemicals that alter our entire internal structure albeit temporarily. They can also trigger several impulses, which is why you sometimes find yourself tapping your feet, singing along or dancing when you hear certain songs and beats.
In fact, music is so powerful that it is believed over time listening to certain types of beats and songs can actually rewire your brain. Although research on just how this happens precisely is very scanty, there is scientific evidence which shows that musicians or those who are more musically inclined have differently wired brains.
These brains are a bit more symmetrical. Also, the parts that are tasked with cognitive function, motor skills, reasoning, and coordination are significantly larger than those of people who are not as musical, so to speak. Additionally, an enlarged corpus callosum ensures that the two hemispheres have better communication.
The power of music and how it affects our lives is apparent even in neurological studies which have proven that listening to certain types of music can make us:
- More productive
- More creative
- Less stressed
- Less moody
The science behind it is that listening to music floods our brains with dopamine, a natural ‘happy juice’ of sorts. It also fosters the release of oxytocin which is a natural painkiller. If music is so powerful that it can actually change our brains, then it is not so farfetched to conclude that music has therapeutic powers that can heal us of conditions such as tinnitus.
Different Types of Sound Therapy Used Over the Years
There are very many different types of sound therapy machines in the world today. Some are traditional such as the singing bowls, and others are a bit more scientific such as the Levo System and the Serenity System by MicroTransponder, Inc.
While some of these sound therapy machines or devices may be more spiritual and other more scientific, they all operate on the same theory that sound can and does heal different maladies including tinnitus. Here are some of the available types of sound therapy device used today and in the past:
The Bonny Method
This method makes use of imagery alongside music. The patient is made to focus on certain images while specifically chosen music plays in the background. Afterward, the patients are encouraged to talk about whatever psychological and physiological problem they might be facing at the moment.
Neurologic Music Therapy
This type of sound therapy is based on neuroscience. It believes that when patients are encouraged to create music, the process alters their brains for the better and allows them to invoke the kind of changes they need to improve their mood, motor, and cognitive functions.
Vibroacoustic Therapy (VAT)
Vibroacoustic Therapy is excellent for patients who suffer some form of physical distress or are recovering from cancer and stroke. The idea behind vibroacoustic therapy is to apply the healing sound waves directly onto the patient’s body. This is done via the use of specially designed beds or mats where speakers are placed strategically in different locations. The patient then lies on the mat or bed for the duration of the therapy as specially designed sound tones and music is played.
The vibrations are believed to penetrate the body at a very deep level because sound travels more efficiently in water than it does through air (our bodies are made of 70% water). This penetration of sound waves ensures that the therapy goes to deep cellular levels.
Tuning Fork Therapy
In this form of sound therapy, calibrated tuning forks are placed on specific acu-spots on the patient’s body (it is very much like acupuncture without the needles). In fact, it is based on the ancient Chinese 5 element acupuncture theory that the body needs a harmonious flow of energy to remain healthy. When the path of this energy is blocked or diverted in any way, we fall ill or get stressed.
It is believed that tinnitus or the ear ringing that comes with it is as a result of some form of blockage in the energy flow within our bodies. The tuning fork is placed in a specific location a calibrated to vibrate at a certain frequency to unblock that energy flow and release tension in the patient.
Of course, there are other forms of sound therapy employed the world over but all of them work on the same basic principle, the vibrations caused by the sound waves can rewire our brains and cause the release of certain hormones and chemicals that foster healing.
It is the same with tinnitus whether you use scientifically developed white noise generators and hearing aids or you use singing bowl therapies. Each method has its merits and demerits and are all backed by a long history of success.