A large number of elementary, secondary and even high-school students display learning difficulties, such as dyslexia, difficulty in understanding mathematical concepts, difficulty in written language etc. Many often display attentional difficulties, either alone or combined with learning difficulties. The Tomatis Method uses the Electronic Ear as a therapeutic means. Combined with specially designed exercises, parental counseling and collaboration with the school, it re-educates the neuro-sensory, communication and decoding processes of the ear that underlie the specific learning difficulties.

Symptoms of dyslexia vary from child to child, from teenager to teenager, from language to language. The underlying feature of dyslexic children and teenagers is their inability to analyze and process phonologically the sounds of the language they acquire, be it their native language or any other language. Specifically, it is the difficulty of the ear to perceive and decode the sounds that constitute a word, a phrase, or a sentence, as well as the difficulty in transforming the sounds into the corresponding concepts, or into graphemes. The main prerequisite for this process is the good decoding ability of the ear.

When the message to be decoded is a written one, the ear is the organ which restores sonic value to it. The ear is the “control device”, responsible for coordinating the rest of the neuronal structure, and re-endowing the word with signifying sound elements. The oculomotor function of reading is complex and requires the ears and eyes to work in synchrony. When the eyes see a letter, the ears identify the corresponding sound, even in silent reading. The vestibule leads the eye from letter to letter and the cochlea translates each letter into a sound. The eye decodes the written word and the word is animated by a specific sound, which is memorized by the auditory receiver. Reading is a re-transcription of the written word into living, dynamic thought. When the “audition-vision” mechanism is not properly superposed, errors appear in the decoding process in reading and writing.

Languages are divided into those with ‘deep’ orthography and those with “shallow” orthography. In languages with ‘shallow’ orthography there is a regular grapheme-to-phoneme correspondence in reading, as in Greek and Italian. Greek, however, has a “deep” orthography in writing, because a given phoneme, e.g., /i/ might correspond to a number of graphemes, e.g., η, ι, υ, ει, οι. In languages with “deep” orthography, on the other hand, such as English, one may read differently from the written signs, as in the different phonemes that correspond to the same final graphemes ‘gh’ in “enough” and “though”. Furthermore, reading words in languages with “deep” orthography like English requires reference to grammatical and semantic aspects of the text to allow the child to read properly. For example, the pronunciation of the word “use” depends on whether it is a noun, in which case it is pronounced /ju:s/, or a verb, in which case it is pronounced /ju:z/. In languages with “shallow” orthography for reading, difficulties in reading constitute a key symptom of learning difficulties, mainly in the first years of Primary School. Usually children overcome this difficulty, although slow and effortful reading may persist; however, writing difficulties are prominent after the first years.