Therapeutic Listening & ADHD

Instructor: Karin Gonzalez

Karin has taught middle and high school Health and has a master's degree in social work.

Like medication and behavioral therapy, Therapeutic Listening is a treatment method for ADHD that many know little about. Learn about Therapeutic Listening and how it helps treat ADHD in this lesson.

What Is Therapeutic Listening?

Some people listen to classical music such as the beautiful sonatas by Beethoven when they study or work. They feel that the music helps them tune out distractions and focus on the work at hand. While Therapeutic Listening assists in attention, it is quite different from just listening to music.

The music and sounds used in Therapeutic Listening are specifically altered for each individual's purpose so that the frequencies and tone of the music targets a specific area in the vestibular-cochlear and central nervous systems. Whatever a person is having difficulty with--attention, hand-eye coordination, social skills, hyperactivity, sleep, sensory processing-- therapeutic listening will be specifically altered to help that individual with that specific need.

Therapeutic Listening is an evidence-based form of music and sound therapy created by Sheila Frick, the founder of VitaLinks, that assists people with many things such as sensory integration, poor attention and communication, and social skill deficits.

In Therapeutic Listening therapy, an individual listens to a 30-minute session of music on specialized headphones twice a day no less than 3 hours apart from each other. While listening to music during the 30-minute session, the individual is usually engaging in behaviors that are intended to help them practice the skill of which they are wanting to improve. It can be done at home or in a therapeutic setting with a VitaLinks trained therapist.

Treating ADHD

In the literature regarding the problems and disorders of which Therapeutic Listening helps, attention and focus are usually at the top of the list. Therapeutic Listening is a form of therapy for Attention-Deficit Disorder (ADD) or Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

Therapeutic Listening music can be altered in a way to stimulate the part of the brain that is responsible for attention, focus and hyperactivity. There have been numerous case studies to validate the efficacy of Therapeutic Listening to improve attention and focus.

Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is a medical disorder mostly caused by the way the brain functions. Some areas of the brain may be less active or smaller in those with ADHD. Areas of the brain responsible for attention, focus, organization and motor activity such as the frontal lobe, basal ganglia, caudate nucleus, and cerebellum can be stimulated and activated in Therapeutic Listening.

For example, a person with low functioning of their frontal lobe may be more impulsive because the frontal lobe helps people think before taking action. Therapeutic Listening can be designed to stimulate the frontal lobe to control impulsivity in those with ADHD.

ADHD is unfortunately very common, affecting (20%) 1/5th of boys and (8%) almost 1/10th of girls. Some children with ADHD also have an auditory processing disorder (APD) that makes it difficult to process the meaning from words that they hear due to a disconnect in messages sent from the ear to the brain.

About 5% of kids have an APD and the symptoms could be similar to those seen in ADHD. Therapeutic Listening can help reorganize the auditory processing from the ear to the brain to aid in verbal comprehension and auditory reception.

How Does It Work?

The music or sounds delivered to the individual through the headphones have been electronically modified and altered so that they stimulate the proper area of the central nervous system or brain. When one thinks of the music used in Therapeutic Listening, they might think that it is classical music.

While classical music is sometimes used, Therapeutic Listening could also incorporate other types of sound and music such as nature sounds or upbeat popular music depending on each individual client's needs. For individuals, usually children, with ADHD, the music and sounds will help them improve focus, concentration, attention, organization and auditory discrimination, as well as decrease hyperactivity.

The music can be altered to stimulate different areas of the nervous system by adjusting the sound level. Low sounds that are below 1,000 Hz help with balance and posture. Medium-range sounds are between 1,000 and 4,000 Hz. It is the high range sounds over 4,000 Hz that help with attention. The type of instrument used, rhythm, beat, melody, tempo are all adjusted depending on the individual's needs.

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