The term “Audio-Psycho-Phonology” implies that psychological factors mediate between (a) the acoustic waves that the ear receives and decodes, and (b) phonation and speech.

There is an important distinction between hearing and listening: Hearing means that the ear passively receives the acoustic signal regardless of whether the person is awake or asleep. Listening or “active selective listening” means that the ear is able to focus its auditory attention and to select to listen to only those sounds that interest the individual, from the variety of environmental sounds that reach it. For example, a student who listens is able to follow a lecture, to focus, and to decode its meaning, although he may be in a classroom with environmental noise.

The Tomatis method was developed by Alfred Tomatis (1920-2001), a French otorhinolaryngologist. Alfred Tomatis devoted a considerable part of his career to the study of the relationship between the ear and the voice, and by extension, between listening and communication. The term “Audio-Psycho-Phonology” was introduced by professor Tomatis, who developed a system of auditory stimulation designed to improve the function of the ear as an organ of listening, understanding and communication.

Professor Tomatis’ discoveries were validated at the physiology laboratory of the Sorbonne and were presented to the Academy of Sciences and Academy of Medicine in Paris in 1957 and 1960. The papers he presented defined the “Tomatis laws”, stated as follows:

  • The voice contains only what the ear hears.
  • If you change hearing, the voice is immediately and unconsciously modified.
  • It is possible to durably transform phonation by sustained auditory stimulation for a specific period of time (law of “remanence” or persistence).

The Tomatis method is based on a number of concepts about how the human being develops, processes information, communicates with oneself and with others and finally, learns. In the course of his research, professor Tomatis developed a training process that enables the individual to regain the skills of decoding, concentration and communication. Indeed, thanks to a set of specialized tools, the method simultaneously works on three core functions of the ear: listening, balance and motor control, and energizing the brain.

Taking into account the fundamental role of sensory stimulation in human cognition and emotion, the Tomatis method facilitates:

  •  Language and communication
  • Learning and attentional processes
  • Behavioral and emotional regulation
  • Creativity and self-realization
  • Control of gross and fine motor movement and posture, and body image
  • Control of the speaking and singing voice
  • Learning foreign languages

We commonly view the ear as a sensory organ of hearing, only. For this reason, the pathology of hearing is the domain of otorhinolaryngology. The ear, however, has other very important functions:

It is the human dynamo. The sensory hair cells of the Organ of Corti in the cochlea, in the inner ear, analyze sound and through electrochemical transformations energize the cells of the cortex. High frequency sounds provide more energy because the part of the cochlea that analyzes them contains more sensory cells. The ear in its entirety produces 85% of the energy that our brain receives from our senses.

It is the organ of balance (vestibular system), which gives us our desired verticality, the perception of the three dimensions of space, and the position and movement of the body. The vestibular system controls the coordination of movement of the body, muscle tone and balance. It controls all the muscles of the body, including the cranial nerves that are responsible for eye movement. Through it a person can have an image of his body in space and time. The vestibular system is referred to as “the ear of the body”, while the cochlea is referred to as “the ear of language”.

It is the organ of listening. When listening is disturbed, this creates not only problems of discrimination, spatialization and auditory lateralization, but also a loss of the ability to isolate an auditory message from surrounding noise. In this situation, the person feels exposed to a mass of auditory information that are perceived with varying degrees of distortion. Understanding messages then require substantial efforts, causing errors, ever increasing fatigue, irritability, and finally withdrawal. Then the environment is experienced as problematic. In these circumstances, attention and memory suffer.