All Listening is Not the Same: Exposing Tomatis Based  Therapies and other Knock-offs by Valerie Dejean, Tuxedo Park, New York  ph.(845)915-3288


The microphone, along with the gate, is the most important feature ofthe Tomatis Machine. The microphone completes the loop in the auditory-vocal re-education process; it is the glue for permanent change of the Tomatis Effect. In a typical microphone session, the client hears his own voice through the machine, which is modified through the gate, channels, delays, filters and balance, so as to accentuate the high frequencies. With this high frequency feedback the client is eventually able to incorporate these frequencies into his voice.

What Sound Therapy ?

During the past 10 years many listening therapies have proliferated, and almost universally they claim that they are based on the theories of the French physician Alfred A. Tomatis.

At the Spectrum Center in Bethesda,MD and New York City now at Tuxedo Park NY, we have been employing the Tomatis Method as a Tomatis Provider for the past eighteen years. As time goes by, we are increasingly called upon to explain the differences between the various methods. Which is most suitable for different
clients? They say that other methods take less time, cost less, can be done at home, use new technologies and sound more stereophonic.

And yet all these products identify themselves as Tomatis based. This is not just a matter of abrand name (Kleenex) being used to identify any generic tissue. After a careful appraisal we must come to the inescapable conclusion that the other methods are not the same as the original, nor are they an improvement on the original Tomatis.

Now, I (Valerie Dejean) will attempt to explain why I have come to this conclusion. In order to understand and survey some of the strengths and weaknesses of the various methods and technologies available it is first necessary to become acquainted with what Tomatis's theories were and how they are executed through the technologies of listening therapies.


Tomatis, made his pioneering discovery that "the voice can only produce the harmonics that the ear is able to perceive". This identification of the role that the ear played in vocal production became the first law of what later came to be called the "Tomatis Effect".

Tomatis also discovered that if the missing frequencies could be restored to the ear, through a device he called the Electronic Ear.

With sufficient training of the ear and voice through the Electronic Ear the changes would become permanent. These discoveries had important implications for populations as diverse as singers and children having difficulty in acquiring language.

Tomatis came to believe that the ear was much more than an organ of hearing. It is, he maintained in charge of functions including; energizing and regulating the brains state of alertness and attention; coordinating posture and movement; and connecting our intentions and thoughts with our physical and verbal transactions upon our environment. Tomatis's life mission eventually became the understanding of how the ear was physiologically involved in acquiring and controlling of the voice and language. To this end he invented several technologies, which could be used to rehabilitate the ear related functions of alertness, attention, coordination and voice.

Turn Down the Bass
a good listener is able totune into the high frequency soundsthat carry the consonantsand consequently the meaning oflanguage


Equipment Examined:


Initially, Tomatis's research was to distinguish what differentiated a good listener from a poor one. He discovered that a good listener is able to tune into the high frequency sounds that carry the consonants and consequently the meaning of language, while at the same time inhibiting the low frequency sounds which interfere with this perception.

Tomatis developed a gating mechanism, which was intended to train the ear to make fine discriminations of sound in this desired high frequency range. This electronic gate was the first feature of the EE and arguably along with the microphone is one of the most important features in delivering the Tomatis Effect. It is emulated  to some degree in all listening programs. The gate on the EE is activated by the intensity and high frequency content of the music and voice. The LiFT by Paul Madaule has the most similar gate.

On the Berard machine and derivatives the volume activates the gate and the music is played often (too) loudly for that reason. Some methods have chosen to flatten the gate so that it doesn't intrude on the high fid elity quality of the music. However this defeats the delivery of the Tomatis Effect. In other words, if you can't hear the gate, a shift from lis te ning to a Base channel to a Treble channel, then you are not getting the Tomatis Effect. The gate is supposed to be irritating so as to get the listening mechanism to pay attention!

As we shall see later the precise timing and wave form of the gate is influenced by the interplay of the channels and delay. All these features must work together to generate the Tomatis Effect.  For example, because of the delay function the gating in bone preceeds the gating in air. This integration of the different features is only available on the Tomatis EE. Nobody else has understood the importance of this.


Another feature that works closely with the gate and is unique to the EE is called the channels. According to Tomatis, the two middle ear muscles perform the physical act of focusing the ear. Changing the channels setting on the EE allows the practitioner to adjust the tension between the two muscles in the listener's ear, in accordance with the profile determined by a listening test. This helps the listener to physically direct his attention and actually increase the perception of the incoming sounds that are most meaningful while at the same time dampening the other competing sounds.  The channels are adjusted to create the maximum level of tension in the middle ear all the way to the most relaxed level depending on the needs of the listener. Initially maximum tension is essential for activation of the listening (paying attention) function. Later once the ear is listening better we are able to adjust the channel to shape the ear to listen to the frequencies of the language that the person speaks. This is especially important during the audio-vocal work.

Air and Bone Conduction:

Sound travels to the inner ear  through two mechanisms, air conduction and bone conduction. Sound travels via air through the outer ear to the middle ear where it is eventually changed to bone conduction and sent to the inner ear.  In bone conduction sound travels through the skull, by passing the middle ear, directly to the inner ear. Air conduction is delivered monaurally to the right and left ear through standard over the ear headphones. Sometimes the volume is weighted to the right to encourage right ear dominance. This is why it is essential that both the right and left ear receive the same monaural input.

Bone conduction is delivered through a tiny vibrator that is place on the top of the head.


Bone conduction always travels faster than air conduction. Tomatis developed the feature on the EE called the Delays that allows the practitioner to manipulate the time delay between air and bone conduction, so that when wearing the earphones, bone conduction is heard first, but then allows an even longer period to become acclimated to this sound (Bone) before having to analyze it (Air).

By manipulating the delay function you allow the listener a longer period to prepare himself for the incoming sound before having to grasp its meaning.  This Feature is very important for people with sensitivities and for people with any kind of processing disorder. The difference between people who have listening difficulties and those who don't, frequently is a question of how quickly they can process information. By giving the ear extra time, a warning that important information is coming, you are able to  train the ear to listen more quickly.

Bone conduction with delay
when wearing the earphones, bone conduction is heard first, this allows us a longer period to become acclimated to this sound (Bone) before having to analyze its meaning thru Air.

These features,(Channels, Delay, Bone and Air Conduction) are integrated with the Gate and work in conjuction with each other. Some of the Listening Therapies include bone conduction on their more advanced models  but have yet to integrate them with the other features. No other programs at this time include the delays featured on the EE.


mother's voice recording

evelopmental Model: the theory behind the equipment and the practice.
The Tomatis Method is based on a developmental model of how we all learned to listen- a process that started in the womb. According to Tomatis, the fetus hears the mother's voice and then begins the slow but steady process of learning the mother's native language. The fetus' ear is particularly attenuated to the high frequencies, which transmit well through the fetal cartilage.  In the 1950's Tomatis first claimed that the fetus was listening to the sounds of its mother's voice. At the time the experts riduculed Tomatis for this. Tomatis proved to be right.  It is now common knowledge tha the fetus learns to recognized the phonemes, the building blocks of speech, from the 5th to the 9th month of pregnancy.  The baby is born "hardwired" or ready to regonize the speech sounds and eventually attach meaning to what he or she hears, until by 18 months the child begins to talk.

Progressive Filters:

A very important feature on the EE is the ability to progressively filter out sound frequencies below 9000 hertz.

This developmental model of of learning to listen is duplicated by the Tomatis Machine when the therapist makes a  recording of the mother's voice and then plays it through the Machine's system of gates, high pass filters and the like. Often, in the case of an autistic or learning disabled child, it is very useful during the Tomatis therapy to duplicate the in utero process by playing a recording of the mother's voice. It is also useful in the case of an adopted child whomay be experiencing difficulting learning a language that they were not exposed to in the womb.  We call this a form of adoption attachment disorder, and it is treated by p laying filtered music and voice through the Tomatis Machine so as to simulate what might have happened in utero. The child then tunes into the frequencies and phonemes of his new language.

The EE is able to re-create this early listening by progressively filtering out the lower frequencies on both musical and speech recordings. This gives the ear an extensive period of high frequency listening that trains it to accommodate to and focus on those important sounds that lay the foundation for langua ge and communication. Only the LiFT an d TLP attempt to emulate progressive filtration and they do it to a lesser and in the case of the TLP a much lesser ext ent. The Berard filters are specific to certain frequencies and address specific sound sensitivities and are not intended to recreate a developmental model of how we acquire listening.


Tomatis discovered that the right ear has faster neuron pathways to the left (language) hemisphere, which ideally, should have a controlling role in language and motor expression. Experiment and observation will readily show that when the right ear is not dominant, expression (and even thinking!) becomes muddled and unfocused. The EE through a mechanism called the Balance helps us to progressively strengthen the right ear in its role of audio-vocal dominance. The Berard machines are similar to the EE in this respect and LiFT attempts this though not to the same extent. The other pre-recorded programs give some emphasis to the Right ear but not progressively.


The microphone along with the gate is the most important feature of the EE. The microphone completes the loop in the auditory-vocal re-education process; it is the glue for permanent change of the Tomatis Effect. In a typical microphone session, the client hears his own voice through the EE, which is modified through the gate, channels, delays, filters and balance, so as to accentuate the high frequencies. With this high frequency feedback the client is able to incorporate these frequencies into his voice, which in turn enables the EE to gate better.This becomes the loop of better perception enabling better vocal production, which in turn enables even better perception.

This is the core of Tomatis' working theory "that the voice can only produce the harmonics that the ear is able to hear" It i nvolves all the components of the Electronic Ear working in a fine tuned combination. This level of active microphone session is only emphasized in one of the other listening therapy methods, the LiFT.

In regards to the other methods which claim to be Tomatis based, the microphone is something of a joke. True the client hears his own voice but it is not, gated, not filtered, and not delayed.  This is not surprising as it takes a high level of electonic sophistication to produce this effect in real time. However without this feature it is impossible to produce the Tomatis Effect on a sustained basis.  Without your voice becoming involved in the feedback loop of ear, bone, and voice, the Tomatis effect won't stick. It won't last! You need audio-vocal work through the integrated system described above to get permanent change.

Training and Programming

In the Tomatis EE each one is reguated by a separate dial, which allows the Tomatis practitioner to create a wide range of separate settings for individual clients depending upon their ailment specific needs. In skilled hands, the EE can become an instrument, like a piano, versus a machine like a radio. In this analogy, the machine, like the radio, does all the work, and does the same work for everybody who listens to a particular station. And, of course, everyone can use it and benefit from it, but it does not require any particular skill. On the other hand, the player on an instrument such as the piano can create unique results, but it takes years of practice. Someone trained and experienced on the EE eventually may become a virtuoso and achieve unique results in the manner of a customized therapy.

The aim of programming is to provide re-education of the earby re-enacting the development of listening from the fetal stage (high frequencies) through birth and then through the development of language. Through programming we are able to modify the many functions of the ear. The EE is the instrument. The programmer is the virtuoso. Tomatis contributed much to our understanding of the normal and abnormal development of the hearing and listening function in the human being. Knowing how to design programs and how to adjust them is the critical human "know how" of the Tomatis Method. This requires lengthy training of the Tomatis Practitioner (3-6 weeks). This intensity is not equaled in any of the other currently available methods.  On the side of this Web page you can find a list of active Tomatis Consultants who have gone through this level of training. To insure that you are getting the true benefits the Tomatis Method can offer, you should look for these qualificatins.

To pretend to be able to train a practitioner in three days is to trivialize the work of Dr. Tomatis and to push the good name of the Tomatis Method down the slippery slope leading to listening therapy becoming just another new age toy. It actually works the original way!  In my 17 years of clilnical experience, I have  actually improved my results by being a serious student of the Tomatis Method and learning how to use all the features available on the EE.  Progamming is where the rubber meets the road in the Tomatis Method.  But you need access to the features in order to do this and such access is not available on the other Tomatis-based.  equipment.

This survey is an attempt to understand what it means to have a machine or delivery system (CD, I-pod or internet streaming) that is based on Tomatis's theories and if in fact they are achieving the Tomatis Effect. In examining all that goes into achieving the Tomatis Effect it is obvious that they are not. I have hoped to stress the importance of full gating, channels, delays, full filtering, microphone work and mother's voice recording as essential to achieving and keeping this Effect.

My concern is that these other methods rely so heavily on Tomatis in their advertising it is easy to confuse them and be mislead into thinking  that you are doing the Tomatis Method, when in fact you are not. In examining all that goes into achieving the Tomatis Effect it would seem that these Tomatis Based Methods are not achieving it.

click here for a more technical article on this subject.

Valerie Dejean


Spectrum Center,