Speech Problems and Sound Therapy

A toddler communicating

Children cannot speak what they cannot hear or understand. The speech therapy process should include auditory training such as Sound Therapy to give a child the best chance of communicating clearly.

Speech develops at different speeds; there is a range which is considered normal development. By 2 to 3 years of age, a child should be able to string two or three words together to talk about and ask for things.

Unless there is a deformity in the vocal apparatus, most speech difficulties are caused by:

Hearing our own voice is a source of constant feedback while we are speaking. If there is any confusion in the sequence of received sounds, the output of speech will likewise be confused.

Ths can result in:

Speech difficulties and delays frequently lead to problems in other areas where language is used, such as reading and writing. The element which is the basis for all these skills is the ability to hear and process sound accurately.

See also Sound Therapy and Auditory Processing, Communication and Hearing.

Language and Laterality

Control centres in the left hemisphere of the brain

The left brain hemisphere is where speech, speech comprehension and language comprehension is coordinated.

Each ear communicates with the brain hemisphere on the opposite side of the body. It is our right ear which communicates directly with the left brain,

In the same way that we are right-handed or left-handed (or ambidextrous), one or both of our ears is dominant when it comes to directing sound to our brain.

According to ENT specialist and Sound Therapy pioneer Dr Alfred Tomatis, language problems are frequently associated with left-ear dominance ("left laterality") as it causes an extra step in the auditory feedback process.

If the left ear is the one directing sounds associated with speech (either listening to someone else talking, or hearing your own voice), there is a delay in processing it, as those inputs then need to be sent from the right brain to the left.

In experiments with singers, Dr Tomatis found that when they monitored their voices with the left ear, they lost much of the control and tonality of their voices. When they monitored themselves with the right ear only, their singing ability was superior to when both ears were used. Thus, Tomatis suggested that the right ear must be the dominant ear for a person to listen effectively, since it relays sounds directly to primary processing centre for language.

If the left ear is dominant, two problems arise:

  1. The sounds from the left ear go first to the right hemisphere, and must then cross the corpus collosum connecting the two brain hemispheres to get to the language centre in the left hemisphere. This delays sound reaching the brain by a fraction of a second, causing auditory confusion and possible stuttering or dyslexia.
  2. Someone who is left ear dominant relates to sound principally through low frequencies with wavelengths between 35m and 140m, which results in them feeling distanced from the source of the sound, and consequently imparts a feeling of isolation from people s/he tries to communicate with. High frequencies give meaning in language, because they define consonants plus they carry the emotional content of the message.

How Sound Therapy improves speech problems

Sound Therapy International programs use classical music and spoken stories that have been filtered through the Electronic Ear device designed by Dr Tomatis, using specific algorithms and activation filters that turn the albums into a concentrated program to rehabilitate the ear, correct laterality problems, and stimulate the auditory processing pathways.

Wilson et al (1982) tested the effect of the Tomatis method when used for language disordered pre-school children over a period of two years.

The first group was given a program of remedial intervention called the Wilson program, which had previously been shown to be effective.

The second group received the Tomatis treatment in addition to the Wilson program.

Results of the study indicated that the group receiving the Tomatis treatment made several gains in advance of the central group. In particular, testing for auditory closure and sound mimicry showed greater improvement in the Tomatis group. The assessment of parents and teachers was that the Tomatis group demonstrated greater ability to express their thoughts and feelings in words.


Stuttering is due to left or mixed laterality where the length of delay in processing speech exceeds 0.15 - 0.2 seconds (depending on the language).

Dr Tomatis worked with a group of 74 stutterers and discovered that all of them had difficulty hearing from the right ear. When he educated them to use the right ear alone, all of them began to speak correctly.

Sound Therapy trains the right ear to become dominant by continually playing more sound with a higher volume into the right ear. When the right ear becomes dominant, the language function naturally switches to the left brain hemisphere, correcting reversed or mixed laterality. Therefore, when the right ear becomes the directing ear, the delay is removed, and the stutter can be overcome.

Studies with stutterers have indicated the effectiveness of Sound Therapy in 82%-100% of cases

In the first study (Van Jaarsveld, 1973), 43 stutterers aged between 14 and 53 years old received auditive training by way of the Electronic Ear. A close family member and a close friend of each subject was asked to complete questionnaires before and after the training, to gauge their perceptions of the subjects' speech. After the initial treatment, all subjects exhibited more fluent speech, with 82.5% of the participants showing significant improvement.

In the second study (Van Jaarsveld, 1974), 30 young adult stutterers received auditory training. After the treatment, it was found that the severity of stuttering (as measured by the Lanyon SS Scale) exhibited by the subjects was significantly lower, and their speech was faster and more fluent.

The audiometric results observed supported Tomatis' previous findings that stutterers have a relative hearing loss in the hearing range of the speech area affected, especially in the right ear, and that acuity improves after re-training the ear.

Hearing sounds clearly

Dr Tomatis discovered that the voice can only produce what the ear hears. The sounds of consonants, such as b, d, p, g and t, are high frequency sounds and are essential for clear comprehension of speech.

Before children can begin learning to produce these sounds, they must first be able to hear them. Sound Therapy stimulates the hearing capacity and exercises the ear, training it in particular to receive high frequency sounds that are lost when hearing is damaged.

This in turn makes a greater range of tonality available to the voice, which is very important for producing intelligible speech.

Three theatre students underwent a program of Tomatis therapy for 7 months to test its effect on the long term average spectra of speech. All subjects showed a shift of vocal energy to the higher frequencies. Subjects also reported greater articulatory ease and improvement in accent variation after the treatment.

Learn more about how Sound Therapy .

Tips for Using Sound Therapy for speech problems

Listening Foundation Program

Which Sound Therapy International Program should I use?

For children with speech difficulties, the Family program is the best option, as it includes the "Let's Recite" album. This gives them the opportunity to repeat what is said and integrate their speaking with their new experience of listening. It also includes other language-based and music-based albums that train the right ear and stimulate the auditory system.

For adults, the best Sound Therapy program to use is the Listening Foundation Program.

Get started with Sound Therapy now!

Please note: Sound Therapy is a rehabilitation program, and as such, it takes time for improvement. Persistence is essential.

Children should be encouraged to listen to the Sound Therapy albums for 30 - 60 minute each day. If it is possible for your child to listen for longer than this each day, that will be even more beneficial. Regular daily listening is essential for the right ear dominance to be achieved. Teenagers and adults should listen for 3 hours a day.

Learn more about .

Estelle Bell (1991) studied the effect of treatment via Sound Therapy over a 3 week period on a 6 year old boy named Timothy who had significant language disorders: his whose speech abilities were 2½ years behind where they should be. Over the course of treatment using Sound Therapy, his teachers, the researcher, and the boy's mother observed improvements in his language and articulation.

Another good exercise for children with any form of speech difficulty is speaking into a microphone while monitoring their voice through the right ear. Your child can speak, sing, read or make any vocal sounds. This exercise can be done for some time each day in conjunction with the listening. There are two ways to do this:

Listener's Success Stories

My grand daughter started on the system only 4 days ago and my wife, my daughter and myself cannot believe the unbelievable improvement in that short amount of time. Her phonics were incoherant to the average person due to her inability to create the correct sounds. For "you" she would say "woo" and mostly I would have to ask her to repeat it or my daughter would tell me what she said. She would also say in sentence "me" instead of "I" so she would say me "Me love woo pop" and she would find it hard to string more than two to three words in a sentence. Today which is the 4th day on the system, 2 hours in the morning and three hours at night, she said to my wife as clear as a bell in the shoe shop today "I don't want those shoes I want the other ones". My wife Lyn was gobsmacked.
Lisa says she just loves wearing the system and listening to it. She dances and acts like a conductor, watches tv and reads books with it on.
I came home tonight and she was totally coherant and she sald "me" a couple of times. When Lisa corrected her she was saying "I" frequently and when she did we gave her a clap. On the way out she said "I love you pop".
As a holistic neurofeedback and biofeedback practitioner I have never seen anyone learn so fast and it happened to be my Grand daughter. Unbelievable product Simone
Will Bayley
Perth, Australia
28 November 2012
I have noticed a remarkable change in my child's speech. The results were tremendous. The child is speaking in longer sentences, with more detail in speech. I am convinced that Sound Therapy really WORKS!
Mrs Marjorie Karpan
Saskatchewan, Canada
I have had an elusive speech problem since childhood. Sometimes the speech was fluent and easy; other times it simply would not come out. I literally could not talk. Most people were not aware of it, since I 'cleverly' disguised my problem by acting 'professorial' - thinking a lot and talking very little and slowly. All of this had a devastating effect on my personality, creating mood swings which were violent and unexpected. Resultingly, depression became an old, old friend.
Now this is all changed. I can talk! Mood swings are very mild and no longer a problem. I truly feel that I am being myself for the first time in my life. I know who I am. Energy is greatly increased; stamina and endurance greatly improved. I sleep from two to four hours a night and awake feeling marvellous. Just call me Lazarus!

James Bragg
Kentucky, USA


Bell, E. (1991) An ethnographic report and evaluation of the implementation of Audio-Psycho-Phonology (Sound Therapy) in the support of Timothy, a year two child, over a period of three weeks. Griffith University Thesis unpub.

Tomatis, A.A. (1954). Recherches sur la pathogénie du Bégaiement. Journal Francais d'Oto-Rhino-Laryngologie, m(4), 384. [Translation: Research on the pathogenesis of stuttering]

Tomatis, A.A. (1996) The Ear and Language. Dorval. Ontario: Moulin.

Van Jaarsveld, P.E. (1973). Die terapeutiese effek van die Elektroniese oar van Tomatis op 'n groep hakkelaars: 'n Opvolgondersoek. Suid-Afrikaanse Sielkundige, 3(1), 1-9.

Van Jaarsveld, P.E. (1974). I-Iakkel en 'n waardering van die tegniek van Tomatis by die remediëring daarvan. Ongepubliseerde doktorale proefskrif, Potchefstroom Universiteit vir CHO: Potchefstroom.

Van Jaarsveld, P.E. & du Plessis, W.F. (1988). Audio-psycho-phonology at Potchefstroom: a review. South African Journal of Psychology, 18, 136-143.

Weiss, W. (1985). Long-term average spectra of continuous speech before and after Tomatis audio-vocal training. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 78 (S1) p. S56
Abstract available online

Wilson, B.C., Iavociello, J.M., Metlay, W., Risucci, D.A., Rosati, R. & Palmaccio, T. (1982). Tomatis project final report. Paper presented at the Opening Communication Conference, Toronto, Ontario.

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Sound Therapy book

Want to learn more before trying Sound Therapy to improve speech difficulties?

The book Sound Therapy: Music to Recharge Your Brain details the history of Sound Therapy and how it helps a wide variety of conditions. It includes the most recent updates on related research include neuroplasticity.

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