Astute Listeners Are More Likely to Succeed

A popular assumption is that aptitude for language correlates with one’s intelligence. Indeed, research shows that individuals who are astute listeners are more likely to succeed in their jobs, relationships, public life – any situation in which effective communication is beneficial. That said, human communication is a dazzlingly complex interplay of different parts of the brain working in concert to analyze, organize and store a wide variety of sensory input.

How Music Can Improve Comprehension, Reading, Working Memory

In order to listen effectively, for instance, one must first comprehend both the content (i.e. the “what” that is being said) and the melody (“how” the information is being delivered) of spoken language. Each of these components is processed by a different area of the brain before coming together into a complete picture; it’s the coordination of these areas that separates “good” listeners from others who may be equally “intelligent” but do not have a fully optimized listening system. Regardless of one’s intelligence, the brain must be able to maintain its attention and working memory to process and retain information as it comes in – for example, when a person is responsible for following multi-step directions – and simultaneously interpret the emotional tone of speech (sarcasm, joy, uncertainty, etc) in order to comprehend meaning and respond in a socially appropriate manner. If any point within this interconnected system is under-exercised, or perhaps not “calibrated” properly to attend to the most relevant sonic components of speech, then effective listening – and thus effective communication – can become extremely challenging, even painful.

That said, the same “listening system” that determines a person’s language capabilities has several key structures and processes in common with the one that processes music; the physical metrics of sound, such as pitch, duration, loudness, etc., are common to both. For example, researchers such as Nina Kraus have shown the connection between the ability to perceive rhythm and the capability to learn to read with ease; Prof. Peter Schneider, a German researcher, has used neuroimaging approaches to show the differences between musicians and non-musicians when assessing the longitudinal effects – that is, the effects on communication between the left and right hemispheres of the brain – on individuals with learning disabilities including dyslexia, auditory processing and AD/HD.

The earlier the better and “when wired together fire together”

For instance, individuals who practice music at an early age have an improved chance to develop recognition of the “melody” of speech, which carries the emotional content of language in its starts, stops, rises and falls. Of course, this sensitivity to rhythm and intonation is not limited to just musicians; neither is a particular interest in (or facility with) music a requirement to develop a strong grasp of nuanced communication. But considering the broader clinical picture presented by all of these facts together, we see a scientific basis forming for conditioning one’s language abilities by taking advantage of the many things that musical and linguistic processing share in the brain.

Naturally, this is where we at the Sacarin Center come in. Research has shown that exposure to musical stimulation can recondition our brains to facilitate better communication between the various areas involved in language, memory and emotional regulation. The Tomatis Listening method is designed to train the processing abilities of the brain by direct stimulation at those precise points of connection where peak performance at listening lies, using an individualized program of specially prepared music pieces in addition to other sounds. By utilizing music in this way, we can target the particular connections that are creating deficits for an individual, whether a child or an adult, and in the process building up to the point where “skilled listening” comes as naturally as muscle memory. For more information about how our methods can improve your auditory processing skills, visit Auditory Processing Disorder.