Guest Post By: Seth Horowitz, Ph.D., Neuroscientist and author The Universal Sense
When we think about hearing (if we think about it at all), we tend to focus on its ephemerality. Sound comes from vibrating air molecules moving so gently that we can’t feel them (unless we’re standing dangerously close to a speaker), inducing motion in micron scale tufted cells waving in a fluid filled inner ear, needing to go through complicated processing to bringing out powerful cognitive, emotional or even physical responses from a listener. But what we think of as a soft interface between air and fluid will actually reflect away most sounds without something to bridge the divide. Something that, based on its stiffness and structure, can act as a natural or induced amplifier and overcome the normal difference in impedance that lets us hear air borne sounds in our fluid filled ears. And while James Wheldon Johnson’s old song is wrong and the ear bones (ossicles) are not connected to the headbone (skull), bones are critical to normal hearing.
Hearing airborne sounds requires a tremendous amount of amplification, and much of it depends on lever action by the ossicles, the three tiny bones that link the air outside the eardrum to the fluid in the cochlea via the oval window. The malleus (Latin for “hammer”) attaches to the eardrum which has an approximate surface area of 55-60 square millimeters. The innermost surface of the malleus articulates with the much smaller incus (anvil) which then passes the pressure onto the stapes (stirrup) whose faceplate contacts the oval window with a surface area of only 3 – 3.5 square millimeters. This allows the three bones to provide 22 times more pressure to the inner ear than received at the eardrum, while still responding fast enough to maintain the exquisite timing needed for proper pitch discrimination. But despite their rigidity compared to the other elements of the peripheral auditory system, these bones are delicate and subject to all the other woes that precise skeletal joints are heir to, ranging from dislocation to arthritis. While many clinical treatments have emerged to treat damage to the ossicles, they still remain critical and highly vulnerable elements in the hearing pathway and pathology or injury can have serious and sometimes permanent effects on detection of airborne sounds.
But we hear with more than just our ears, as you can tell if you go to a concert for the deaf or watch Evelyn Glennie perform. Due to her severe hearing loss, she often performs with her feet bare to pick up vibrations from the stage and her body placed precisely to pick up vibrations directly from the instruments. Like her, your entire body is sensitive to vibrations and your skeleton can act as a series of rigid low frequency transducers. In humans, this pathway is limited to detecting (not hearing) very loud low frequency vibrations (or, more often, a pathway to induce vibroacoustic disease as often experienced by heavy machinery operators). However, it is a remnant of the earliest way vertebrate animals detected sounds when they emerged onto the land hundreds of millions of years ago. Many non-avian and non-mammalian land animals still rely on transmission of lower frequency sound through skeletal pathways, called the “extratympanic pathway” that transmit vibrations through their limbs to their shoulder girdle and finally to their skull and ears. But this evolutionary “remnant” has provided us with an opportunity for overcoming some forms of damage to our tympanic pathway. By vibrating our skull, some hearing aids such as the Baha® bone anchored system or Advanced Brain Technologies’ wearable Bone Conduction System called WAVES™ use this lower frequency pathway transmit vibrations to the inner ear directly to overcome some of the drastic effects of damage to the tympanic system. So while it seems counter intuitive, our densest bodily structures are critically important for maintaining one of our most fluidic and delicate sensory systems, and highlight how no one system is ever truly isolated from the rest of our physiological makeup.
In my last post, I Can’t Stop Smiling I shared that we would be making a public announcement last Friday about a new audio technology coming from Advanced Brain Technologies. The announcement has been made, and I’m so excited to share with everyone that the Waves™ multi-sensory audio system has arrived!
With Waves, we’ve re-imagined what’s possible. Our newest bone conduction headphone system is more effective than ever, and it has been custom-designed especially for The Listening Program®. With a larger bone conductor, a more powerful amplifier, and robust components, Waves’ gentle vibrations and pure sound will transport you from the moment you start listening. They feel and sound incredible. You won’t want to take them off.
So, you may be wondering why bone conduction headphones?
Using the two natural modes of hearing — through your ears and through your head — delivers a deeper listening experience than conventional headphones can provide. Not only does the Waves system make your daily listening more enjoyable, it accelerates and expands the benefits of your listening practice.
Benefits of Bone Conduction:
- Supports stress reduction and regulation of the “fight or flight” response, to help achieve a state of calm and relaxed/alertness; especially helpful for people with sensory sensitivities.
- Two modes of listening help improve sensory awareness, supporting brain functions responsible for posture, balance, muscle movement, and motor skills.
- Using The Listening Program with combined bone and air conduction offers internal and external sound stimulation, which increases vocal awareness and supports the development and refinement of language and communication skills.
If you would like to experience The Listening Program with Waves or learn more please visit http://advancedbrain.com/waves.
The Liverpool Echo published an article today about the results of a pilot study which examined the effects of modified classical music and a specific protocol to help children with autism and other cognitive and developmental challenges to be toilet trained. This is a world first project, conducted by June Rogers head of NHS Liverpool Community Health’s Integrated Paediatric Continence Service.
Children listened to 30 minutes of music a day through a special audio system which provided the music through both auditory pathways, air and bone conduction. The outcomes are positive and have been presented at European conferences. We now await approval for a large scale clinical trial to confirm these results in a larger sample size.
Continence problems severely impact quality of life, self esteem, and have large costs associated with supporting these children as they enter school. Our protocol holds promise to help children with toilet training problems, reduce costs of services to them, and help them live a happier more fulfilling life.
Read the full article
UPDATE: Thank you to the staff at the Liverpool Echo for making the correction to the program name!
Hearing and speech are common challenges for children with Down Syndrome or Trisomy 21. Susceptible to chronic ear fluid and infections, auditory development is a crucial area of focus when taking a comprehensive approach to helping these children reach their innate potential.
If hearing is impacted, so is listening, auditory processing, receptive and expressive language, and cognitive function. One broken link in the chain creates a domino effect in terms of development of learning, behavior and communication.
Music listening therapy is a viable intervention for children with Down Syndrome. We have seen wide and varied success with The Listening Program® over the years, with the greatest success when the music is provided with a specialized audio system we developed called the ABT Bone Conduction Audio System™ that connects to an iPod or portable CD player and delivers the music simultaneously through air conduction and subtle vibrations through bone conduction. This integrated approach delivers a more reliable auditory signal to the brain helping to train it to discriminate sound and support other functions of the autonomic and central nervous systems.
A study was conducted by Gwyneth Jeyes and Caroline Newton in the UK in which a group of kids with Down Syndrome completed just half of the recommended minimum 50 hour protocol of The Listening Program® which is spread over the course of several months, with daily listening sessions of 15 or 30 minutes. These kids ages 5 to 12 yrs listened for just 25 hours and without the added bone conduction training. Even at this level of intervention all but one of the nine children showed improvements in listening, speech and language skills based on parent surveys. Other improvements were also seen in several of the children.
These results were presented in a Poster Session at the 1oth World Down Syndrome Congress in Dublin back in August. While the study is small, the outcomes are consistent with reports from Speech and Language Pathologists and other practitioners using The Listening Program® with their clients with this chromosomal anomaly. I am hopeful that we will see interest in see a larger, controlled study.
6 children who present with sensory processing disorder (SPD) and auditory processing concerns with ages ranging from 3 yrs 11 mo. to 8 yrs. 7 mo. 4 of whom were receiving therapy services participated in the study. Results from standardized testing demonstrated a significant improvement in all children who completed the program, compared to just therapy alone. This demonstrated that The Listening Program® with bone conduction is effective in helping increase functional skills and outcomes in children who present with sensory integration and auditory processing concerns along with skilled therapists to help achieve maximum potential and independence in everyday tasks/skills.
This study was originally presented by John Esteves at the 2008 Advanced Brain Technologies International Conference in Midway, Utah, July 2008. A summary is in the new book just published by Springer Vienna and New York, edited by Roland Haas and Vera Brandes Music That Works: Contributions of Biology, Neurophysiology, Psychology, Sociology, Medicine and Musicology ISBN 978-3-211-75120-6 http://www.springer.com/springerwiennewyork/medicine/book/978-3-211-75120-6
To read or download the full study please click here.
Using Music to Enhance Sensory Processing
Ben had serious balance and mobility issues and delays in his language development. Having Neurofibromatosis (NF1), such developmental delay is often seen. In June 2007 he began The Listening Program® from Advanced Brain Technologies using the relatively new addition of bone conduction stimulation.
“Very quickly, Ben’s language skyrocketed. He began to speak in 4-7 key word sentences with much more accurate sound reproduction” Ben’s Mum, Helen
As the developer of The Listening Program® we at Advanced Brain Technologies are very happy for Ben and the wonderful gains he is making in his life. What an inspiration he is!
Read the full article written by Alan Heath that was published in SEN Magazine in the United Kingdom. http://tinyurl.com/6de6jh