A brief review of Auditory Integration Training*
Auditory Integration Training (AIT) was developed by a French Ear, Nose and Throat specialist, Guy Bernard M.D., as a method to stop or even reverse the process of hearing loss. He designed a device that rapidly modulated the high and low frequencies within selected music to create a type of auditory massage for the ear and brain. This device which is now called the AudioKinetron, also contains filters to reduce auditory stimulation to selected frequencies in cases where an individual has painful hearing that interferes with attention and concentration.
Dr. Bernard began to apply the technique to children with learning disabilities. His results with this population were very positive and he gradually expanded his work to include children with autism, and a broad range of developmental and attention related disorders. Dr. Bernard also discovered that certain types of depression were related to specific patterns in patients’ hearing and used AIT to successfully treat depression in both adults and children.
How does AIT work?
The AudioKinetron accepts music from a regular compact disc or tape player and electronically divides the frequencies it finds into a high and low range. The machine then randomly presents either the high or low frequencies in a rapidly shifting manner. When an individual listens to this music the muscles in the middle ear shift and readjust continually in response to the modulated tones. This continual movement of the muscles in the middle ear becomes a kind of exercise that strengthens the ear’s ability to modulate sound.
It is believed that the cochlea experiences a “wash” of fluid back and forth as well. The net effect is that the middle, and to some extent the inner ear receive the equivalent of a massage that breaks up old patterns of perception and allow for greater flexibility and responsiveness to sound stimuli.
Auditory information from the ears is processed by the temporal lobe of the brain. The temporal lobe is heavily involved in processing language based information and has some role in emotional functioning. There is speculation that AIT involves remapping of areas of the brain associated with auditory processing and that the temporal lobe stimulation encourages the development of new dendritic branching.
Case studies have also suggested that metabolic functioning like glucose utilization in the brain and levels of blood protein can improve following treatment with AIT. These findings should be viewed cautiously in that they are single case studies and further research is needed to determine exactly how AIT works and what conditions will respond to treatment.
AIT and the treatment of depression
In addition to his work with autistic and learning disabled children Dr. Berard began to notice interesting correlations between hearing patterns on audiograms and depression. In studying the audiograms of individuals who later committed suicide he noted that they showed a peak (more sensitive hearing) at 2000 hertz and again at 8000 hertz. When he treated these individuals with AIT using filters at these frequencies he discovered that both the hyper acute hearing peaks and the patient’s depression would disappear. Further observation showed that other patterns also correlated with less severe forms of depression and that these too responded to AIT treatment. In all Dr. Berard reports treating 237 individuals for depression with AIT with positive results in all but five cases.
Certainly someone with significant depression who shows one of the depressive proffles on an audiogram could benefit of AIT.
What is treatment with AIT like?
The training itself consists of twenty half hour sessions spaced over the ten days. The treatment consists of listening to music through the modulating device. Depending on the individual there may be transient side effects including headaches, mood swings, disorientation .euphoria and nausea. Many people have no side effects at all. Transient side effects can appear intermittently for up to a month following AIT. Evidently some powerful changes occur during AIT and it takes a while for the brain to assimilate them. No long term negative effects have been attributed to AIT.
More about Auditory Integration Training
A brief review of auditory integration training, Julian B. Metter, Ph.D., Licensed Psychologist