Healthy Sound Practices Podcast


Recently, I had the pleasure of speaking with Dr. Michael Seng on the Oneness Approach podcast. During our conversation, I explained the harmful effects of noise pollution and how we can use sound to heal, reduce stress, anxiety, the effects of ASD and other health problems.

Listen in by following this link to learn what healthy sound practices you should incorporate into your daily routine to reduce stress, increase focus and improve your listening skills.


Healing at the Speed of Sound: Japanese Edition Released


My book Healing at the Speed of Sound® was released in Japan today by ASCII Media Works, although I have yet to hold the Japanese edition in my hands. This adds to the list of English, Korean, French and Complex Chinese editions. I’m delighted that our message of the transformative power of music and sound is continuing to spread globally.

My co-author Don Campbell (also bestselling author of The Mozart Effect®) taught music in Japan in the early years of his career. He had a deep affection for the country and its people. I know how much this book release would please him. This is me raising a celebratory cup of Ginjo to you Don, Kanpai!

For English speaking readers, Healing at the Speed of Sound is available in hardcover, paperback, eBook (kindle, Nook), enhanced eBook (kindle fire, Nook color, iTunes), and audio book wherever books are sold.

If you’ve read Healing at the Speed of Sound I’d love to hear from you. Let me know what steps you’ve taken to make music and sound part of your health and wellness practice.

Rhythm: Mickey Hart’s “Drum Ki”


Dead Heads and fellow art collectors rejoice! Mickey Hart has revealed an intriguing way for us to visually experience rhythm and I’ll tell you about it a bit later in the post.

While not a Dead Head myself, I’m a fan, and experienced the Grateful Dead at Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View in September of 89. It was a spontaneous weekend. My buddy Gary and I went to Trader Joe’s loaded up his BMW with Oranjeboom Lager, jumped on the 405 in Van Nuys, blasting the curious Icelandic sounds of Bjork for the 5 hour drive north. We had no show tickets, no motel room; just an impulse, desire, and the freedom to roll…

Some 24 years later I can’t say I recall all the details of that trip, and if I could, better to leave some things unsaid…What I can share is that it was a short, but epic journey, and everything a youthful adventure Road Trippin’ should be. In the cycle of two California sunsets I came to understand why the faithful followed these iconic musicians across the globe—Vibe; the rhythm of music and community.

At this moment I’m listening to the recording of Grateful Dead from that very concert. VIDEO  The music is recalling the vivid sensory experience of this episodic memory from the deep recesses of my hippocampus. Central to this recollection is the vibratory pulse invoked through Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart’s rhythms.

Mickey’s creative spirit has taken him down many paths. The latest is “Drum Ki” a fine art collection that utilizes sophisticated technology to create a new medium translating rhythm to visual art. I find it to be extraordinary; a visualization of the invisible, rhythmic waveforms created with percussion then captured onto canvas.

Recently I completed production on many hours of percussion forward cross-cultural music with my colleagues for a rhythm-based music listening program. Rhythm has been the central theme in my consciousness. Just this morning I was analyzing the real time visual waveforms of our music when I went online and viewed a piece in Hart’s collection called The Sermon. I was struck as happens when I’m called to a piece of art. For me it symbolizes the deeper meaning of our project; to find our pulse, the rhythm within ourselves and our environment. See it here.

If you’re interested to learn about our rhythm project I’ll be presenting it with fellow producers Sheila Allen and Nacho Arimany at the Interdisciplinary Society for Quantitative Music and Medicine Conference 2013 at the University of Georgia later this month. Presentation Abstract.

Explore Mickey Hart’s ‘‘Drum Ki” and share in the comments if you’re drawn to this collection too. I’d love to know and if so, which piece speaks to you.

Rock-a-bye Brain

A Good Laugh and a Long Sleep

Guest Post By: Seth Horowitz, Ph.D., Neuroscientist and author The Universal Sense

Sometimes the best science is done by looking at the obvious — the daily behaviors that we do — to solve a mystery.  And watching almost any sleep-deprived parent and his or her young child will give you an instant insight into two powerful mechanisms that underlie human sleep, one of neuroscience’s greatest mysteries, as the parent rocks his or her infant back and forth, crooning a lullaby.  These are two behaviors that have probably been used by humans seeking sleep for their children (and themselves) since humans first appeared, and both are driven by our ears.

It may seem odd to think that rocking someone to sleep has anything to do with your ears, but your ears contain two sensory systems — the auditory system for hearing sounds, and the vestibular system, which normally underlies balance.  Both are driven by similar types of sensors, called hair cells. These are tiny, tufted cylinders with tips that wave back and forth in fluid -filled chambers, each responding to different types of motion: oscillations of pressure waves that are translated into sound, and slower, linear or angular motions based on how the head moves (which drives balance).

Normally, the two systems are separate, projecting to different areas of the brain and helping define different ways in which we sense our environment.  But both systems can overlap under certain circumstances. Managing sleep is one of the most profound ways in which they interact.

Balance and the Vestibular System: your brain’s way of processing movement

One of the things that the balance system does is let us know when things are wrong with the way we are moving.  Standing on a boat in high seas, your vestibular system will tell you that the world is moving up and down at one rhythm, while your stomach and eyes are experiencing movement in different directions.  Radical motions that separate what your inner ears and your eyes tell you are happening trigger nauseogenic motion sickness.  But slow down the motion, make it almost regular, slower, and gentler, and your inner ears do something odd.  They put you to sleep.  Whether it’s a baby rocking gently or a passenger in a car, bus, or train, gentle vibrations transmitted through your body to your inner ears trigger another form of motion sickness. It’s called Sopite syndrome, and, rather than making you want to lose your lunch or die, it activates your global sleep network.  But it’s not always convenient to drive your child around on bumpy roads to get her to drift off, or possible to rock your baby in a quiet environment.

Low frequency sounds: feel the beat

This is where the other part of your ears can help.  While normally there is no cross talk between your hearing and balance system, high pressure/low frequency sounds can trigger responses in the balance-sensitive hair cells in your ears.  This is why most effective dance music pumps up the bass, hijacking your sense of hearing to trigger motor responses. In other words, rhythmic deep bass sounds make you feel the beat and want to match it with body motion.

But the truth is, we don’t hear very low frequency sounds very well, and even sound pressure levels of 70 dB — what would seem like a moderately noisy street or bar scene at higher frequencies — are perceived as relatively quiet at lower frequency.  And here lies the opportunity.  By providing semi-regular, low frequency sounds that are audible, but not loud enough to make you want to dance or run away, you can trigger Sopite syndrome and provide a gateway to sleep.  And by providing soft, regular sounds in a familiar register (like the universal aspects of lullabies, which stretch back more than a thousand years), you block out the distracting environmental sounds that can interrupt falling asleep.

The Listening Program® SLEEP uses those combinations of sounds so that your ears tell your brain it’s time to sleep. You may not feel like you’re being rocked like a baby, but your brain will get that impression. And it’s all due to the two functions of your ears.

So the next time you do bundle your cranky child into the back seat of your car and finally get her to fall asleep, remember to thank her ears.  Just make sure you don’t let yourself get lulled by those very same inputs to your own brain.

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Sleep is not simple unconsciousness

Sleep Quote- Dr. Seth Horowitz

Sleep is one of the most important functions for daily life and continued health throughout the lifespan, yet it is one of our least understood behaviors. Our scientific understanding of sleep has evolved from thinking of it as a simple cessation of consciousness to realizing it is a complex neural behavior that is easily affected by everything from light exposure to diet and exercise. One of the most powerful ways of affecting sleep, for good or bad is through sound, as hearing is the only sense that remains highly active through most stages of sleep.

Tonight please join me and my guest, neuroscientist and author Dr. Seth Horowitz, as we examine the interactions between sleep and the auditory system, and how sound can be a powerful stimulus for both sleep interruption or induction and maintenance of healthy sleep patterns. The free teleseminar begins at 8:00 pm, Eastern.  Please note that registered callers will be first to call first served. We have capacity for 250 on the call, and up to 500 can listen on the web if the phone lines are full.  We will exceed capacity. I hope you’ll join us to learn more about sleep and to be the first to hear a special announcement that will offer new hope for the sleepless.  Register

The ear bones connected to the head bone…

Bone Conduction

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.

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