How a little known listening program heals a range of “incurable” ills: Interview with Laurna Tallman

In her book Listening for the Light and in her extensive writings on the importance of music therapy for the ear and brain, Laurna Tallman has not only focused her considerable insights on the healing of dyslexic syndrome, schizophrenia, bipolarity, chronic fatigue syndrome, and substance abuse, but also on the socio-economic context where many find themselves unable to access the therapies that may truly help them. What little I had absorbed about the Tomatis therapy (the starting point of her work), even after undergoing the therapy myself and devoting a chapter of my own book to it, was unclear and confusing. I had no idea why Tomatis therapy might be key in treating my son’s schizophrenia. Laurna’s book changed that. The Tallman Paradigm is a theoretical, neurological framework for behavior that builds on and extends the work of Alfred A. Tomatis, with an important contribution from Vilayanur S. Ramachandran.

Simply put, the Tallman Paradigm maintains that altering the right ear with music has a global effect on brain function by making the left-brain dominate in cerebral integrative processes. The stapedius muscle in the right middle ear controls the amount of sound energy that reaches the left brain. If that muscle is weak or damaged, the left-brain cannot maintain its dominance over the right-brain. In people with a very weak ear muscle, the hemispheres trade “dominance” every two minutes. That condition of non-dominance, she asserts, characterizes schizophrenia, autism, and the state of normal sleep. The illnesses can be healed by using high frequency music, which Tomatis appreciated for its power, and headphones modified by blocking the left earpiece to force right-ear listening. A very important added bonus for anyone wanting to do the Tallman therapy is that anyone can do the therapy. You don’t need to travel to an expensive Tomatis center to benefit. People of any income level, no matter where they live, can heal themselves cheaply. The only equipment needed is ordinary headphones, a few CDs of Mozart violin concertos or other classical violin music, and a CD player such as a walkman or a computer. Laurna‘s website is another instance of Internet distance learning that people can apply in their own homes. She has several publications for people wanting to dig deeper into her discoveries.

Interview with Laurna Tallman, author of Listening for the Light

RF: I devote one of the chapters of my book, The Scenic Route, to the Tomatis Method therapy, which my son first underwent for a total of 60 hours in 2009. In 2009, the therapy produced interesting small changes in Chris. Not being particularly enlightened as to why he should continue the therapy once he had completed the 60 hours, I thought once was enough. What I took away from my meetings with the director of the program was that Chris would just “blossom” in some undefined way over time. When I finished my book in the late summer of 2017, Chris and I had some free time to revisit some of the therapies that (a) were covered by our insurance and (b) had a somewhat documented body of knowledge behind them, which is the case for Tomatis therapy. Both of us did the therapy this time, for 40 hours each. I felt energetically rejuvenated, but came away none-the-wiser about what this therapy can do for people or why Chris and I should stick with it.

Laurna, I suspect that my impressions of Tomatis therapy are shared by others. Tomatis therapy is expensive. Tomatis clinics usually are restricted to large population centers and the treatment is not covered by a lot of insurance plans. Can you expand on any other of its drawbacks when it comes to schizophrenia and the other conditions and why you advocate using Focused Listening?

LT: Yes, I can. But, first, I want to express my appreciation for the genius of Tomatis that led to important discoveries and my gratitude for the kindness of practitioners who use that method to reach out to people in need. Four members of our family experienced some version of the Tomatis Method and each made astonishing recoveries from dyslexic syndrome or from chronic fatigue syndrome. Those healings were not permanent, however, which set me on my own road to discovery. I would learn that treatments affecting the ear cannot be guaranteed to be permanent because the ear is easily harmed, for example, by loud noise, by infections, and by other means. Continue reading “How a little known listening program heals a range of “incurable” ills: Interview with Laurna Tallman”

A visit to the hospital

I met Jennifer at the hospital last Friday afternoon, armed with my “Focused Listening” bag that included all the equipment she would need for listening to the music. But, would she go for it? Would she even be pleased to see me? I went up to the second floor of the converted manor house and knocked on her door. She was in, but wasn’t expecting me because the staff hadn’t told her I was coming, as I had called ahead to request them to do.

Jennifer, as long as I have known her, has extreme “flat affect.” At her worst, she appears cold and disinterested, but I have seen her at her “better” after her stint in the hospital four years ago, and she was kind and sympathetic.

We went downstairs to get a coffee. I noticed that Jennifer was talking, not just to me, but to the other patients. This seemed like a big improvement over the what I had observed over the past year. We sat down and I asked her what brought her to the hospital. By now, she had been there about a month.

“I was doing nothing wrong, and at 7 a.m. one morning they came to my room and arrested me,” she said.

“That was tough. Why would they do that?”

I did nothing wrong, she insisted.

“I’m sure you didn’t,” I said. “Maybe they thought you weren’t taking your medication?

That medication they put me on, Haldol, was awful. It is a very old medication, shouldn’t be used, and it made my hands shake.

“Yes, I remember seeing them shake,” I said. “Haldol will do that. So, are you still on it?

“No, I went to a doctor who said I shouldn’t be on it, and I managed to get off it.”

“So, what are you on now?”

“That’s none of your business,” Jennifer replied. If looks could kill, I’d be dead. My take-away is that she ended up in hospital because she was off her meds and had no back-up plan. Not that a back-up plan would necessarily have worked. Going off meds takes a lot of trial and error, mainly error until something sticks.

“Okay, fair enough,” I say.

She launched into a tirade about her ex-husband being raped and murdered. And so has another woman whose name she mentions and I don’t recognize.  Apparently, a lot of the the people in this town have disappeared and been killed.

Continue reading “A visit to the hospital”

Listening for the Light: A New Perspective on Integration Disorder in Dyslexic Syndrome, Schizophrenia, Bipolarity, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and Substance Abuse

Book review of Listening for the Light: A New Perspective on Integration Disorder  in Dyslexic Syndrome, Schizophrenia, Bipolarity, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and Substance Abuse, by Laurna Tallman

Listening for the Light author Laurna Tallman channels her considerable insights gained from understanding the tasks of the left and right hemispheres of the brain into practical advice for regaining optimal physical and mental health.

In normal brain function, both cerebral hemispheres process information, such as language. Both sides work together to maintain physical coordination and take in complex information. The left hemisphere has more control in the processing of tasks such as language and logic, while the right hemisphere has more control in processing tasks related to creativity and intuition. In cases of schizophrenia (and other mental illnesses to varying degrees), language and logic are severely interrupted (deficient) while creativity and intuition are wildly chaotic (hampered by the left hemisphere deficits). This book delves into the question of what causes the left hemisphere to lose its dominance, or, to put it another way, what causes people with mental disorders to become disorganized in the skills most needed to manage daily life (language and logic)?

The brain and the entire body are powered by sound energy entering both ears. The “normal” function of the stapedius muscle of the right ear is to quickly and directly energize the “logical” left brain with sound energy. The stapedius muscle of the left ear launches sound energy entering the left ear on a circuitous route before feeding the information to the larynx. Dr. Alfred Tomatis, an ENT doctor, scientist, and founder of the method named after him, knowing that right-ear sound is a more direct route to the larynx, determined that it is the right ear that controls the voice, concluding that the voice can only reproduce what the ear can hear. Tomatis was not talking about “tone” (the quality of a sound) he was talking about “pitch” (the frequency of the sound being produced, e.g., “C” instead of “D-flat”). And he was talking, first, about singers. (His father was an opera singer.) He thought in terms of “overall pitch” of the speaking voice in various languages. He paid no attention to what caused nuanced tone in the speaking voice. (e.g. there is little nuance in “flat” affect, a negative symptom of  schizophrenia.) He had no idea what caused garbled speech, although he knew the right ear needed to be dominant to stop stuttering and to help dyslexics. And herein lies Tallman’s neurological paradigm: His ideas of ear dominance did not extend to cerebral dominance. Tallman is the one who saw that connection: that altering the right ear was having a global effect on brain function by making the left-brain dominate in integrative processes. Tomatis just thought each half of the brain ran at a different speed. Integration wasn’t on his radar. 

Tallman asserts that most mental illness begins in the ear, and, specifically with a weakened stapedius muscle in the right middle ear. When the right ear stapedius muscle is either naturally weak or weakened by drugs, exposure to loud noises, etc., corrective stimulation needs to be applied. More energy needs to flow through the right ear to enable the left brain to assume its dominance in language and logic. Focused Listening strengthens the right ear to increase that sound energy flow. She makes an excellent case for why this is so.  When I came across Tallman’s book, having had some experience with the Tomatis Method, suddenly I had an comprehensive, coherent, and plausible explanation for the origin of my son’s symptoms and a clear idea , thanks to this book, on how to improve on the Tomatis Method‘s shortcomings. Continue reading “Listening for the Light: A New Perspective on Integration Disorder in Dyslexic Syndrome, Schizophrenia, Bipolarity, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and Substance Abuse”