At first, my parents wondered if I was hard of hearing. I underwent standard hearing tests and, as they all came back with normal results, my trouble continued. After that, I sent for extensive aptitude tests and those results explained the problem. When I learned visually, with my eyes, my IQ was very high; learning aurally, with my ears, it was another matter. I could hear sounds; I struggled to comprehend a certain frequency range of sound where the human voice resides.
I have Auditory Processing Disorder (ADP), an invisible disability, caused by a lack of oxygen during birth. While my hearing is perfect, I have intermittent problems with perceiving and decoding what people are saying. It’s like having poor cell phone reception, where the signal gets static or drops out.
I can write an article over a period of eight hours without moving, memorize a 30-minute monologue when required, and remember virtually anything – as long as I see it with my eyes.
In Grade 4, I was placed back into regular public school because my visual comprehension was high enough to balance my grades. During this year of transition, I encountered my greatest bully.
Mr. Lowker summed me up within a few months of being in his class. After receiving another poor grade on a verbal test, he delivered his judgment of my future prospects with a scowl, “Julie, you just have to understand that you are stupid and that you will end up being a janitor.”
Those words have haunted me for 31 years. Every time I was called out for not understanding instructions, every time my boss rolled his eyes and said the same thing again only louder, I made it mean that I was stupid and one day the world would figure that out and when they did, I would lose my job in the media and instead, clean toilets.
When listening, I must spend extra mental effort to unscramble new terms and concepts. Doing all this decoding takes up space in my working memory so, my working and short-term memory is used to process the conversation, instead of remembering what I’ve heard. As a result, I have left many classrooms without the memory of the whole lecture.
I lived for more than 30 years thinking that I just had to deal with my fate, until I discovered The Listening Centre. After searching the internet for help with ADP, I stumbled across The Tomatis Method; a type of listening training that is based on the work of Alfred A. Tomatis, the originator of the field of listening and sound therapy. The Listening Centre is the first facility of its kind in North America. Co-founded in 1978 by Dr. Tomatis and Paul Madaule, it's located in the heart of Mirvish Village in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. I clicked on the 'contact us' tab and set up a free consultation to see if their technique could help me.
Morana met me at The Listening Centre (TLC) with a warm smile. After a special hearing test, she explained that I hear more effectively through the bones in the back of my head than I did down my ear canal. This created a focus on background sounds and a difficulty understanding the human voice in front of me. You can imagine how difficult it might be trying to keep up with conversations when I only comprehend part of what is being said. In a noisy room, I would have to rely on context of the conversation in order to figure out what was being said. She suggested that my ears could be retrained and that 6 weeks of The Tomatis Method has been shown to help people with ADP.
The Tomatis Method program consists of 70 hours of training over a period of 6 weeks, starting with 2 hours per day for 3 weeks. This is followed by a month off (for integration) and then 3 more weeks of active exercises.
During these sessions, participants receive, through headphones, the sound information modified by a corrective audio-device, called an Electronic Ear, which includes a microphone, amplifiers and filters. The purpose of the Electronic Ear is to modify the sound information to exercise your listening function: the listening training.
The participants hear classical music, or chants, filtered at various frequency levels. Filtered music gives a regain of energy to those who feel tired, those who tire easily or those who have difficulty maintaining their attention for extended periods of time (for instance, for the duration of the class). The chant helps to relax those who feel stressed, nervous or irritable, or those who have a hard time slowing down.
During these sessions it is not necessary to concentrate on the sound source. It helps to improve auditory processing, attention span and concentration. Because the sound messages are perceived with more clarity, it is easier to interpret them and to retain them. Thus, both comprehension and memory are improved as well.
These sessions consist of a repetition of singing exercises (humming/chanting with closed mouth and then with open mouth) and repetition of words and short sentences. During these exercises, your ear receives the voice after having been modified by the Electronic Ear. Towards the end of the program, reading-out-loud sessions are introduced.
I LOVED my time at The Listening Centre. I felt it was a ‘vacation’ from my insane work schedule and a chance to sing, draw, journal, SLEEP, read poetry and get in touch with my breath. These were things I never afforded myself – even when I was travelling. The staff is so kind and supportive that I felt I was going to a mental spa!
The last week of my program, I saw such improvement that I found myself staying after class to continue reading out loud because I was shocked it was so much smoother.
It turns out that reading out loud is actually an auditory skill.
Even though my visual comprehension was great to begin with, my listening training dramatically improved my ability to read a text I had never seen before.
My final listening test shows that my ability to hear higher frequency has improved. The frequency where human speech resides has improved and my ears have caught up with bone conduction, allowing for improved listening of speech with background noise.
I feel my improved ability to listen has healed a huge part of my self-esteem and I am forever grateful for Morana, Darlah and Paul. Their work improves 100s of lives each year.
I came clean with my deepest fear that has kept me locked in self-doubt for most of my life. I am moving out of the closet of feeling stupid, onto the stage of self-expression and empowerment.
If I could talk to Mr Lowker today, I would say, “The man in the USA with the highest IQ so happens to be a janitor. I ended up with a TV show and a best-selling book because you pushed me everyday to prove you wrong. I want to thank you!”
With The Listening Centre on my side, I might just pursue my dream of filming a cooking show on the space station. I won’t mind cleaning toilets in outer space!
For more information about how The Tomatis Method could improve your listening, reading, attention span or vocal quality, contact them at :
BTW... Paul Madaule’s book is available at The Listening Centre at a much cheaper price than through Amazon.