Your body has a physical reaction to sound. To many, this is obvious. The creepy killer-is-around-the-corner music that runs in the background of a particularly charged scene in a slasher flick makes your heart beat out of your chest.
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The sappy-sweet instrumentals that fill the church as the bridal party heads down the aisle can bring tears to your eyes. The fast-paced and rhythmic music that slithers out of your earbuds can give you the energy to go that last mile. With this experience-based knowledge of the fact that music can be so feeling-rich, it is no surprise that sound in general, and music in particular, might actually have an effect on your overall health and wellness.
Though it may sound like unproven, new-age mumbo jumbo, sound therapy is actually a scientifically based treatment option. The formal research into this method of treatment began in the 18th century when German physicist Ernest Chladni began experimenting with the effect that sound waves had on a sand-sprinkled plate. Swiss scientist Hans Jenny built on Chladni’s research many years later when he conducted experiments in the 1960s where he studied the effect that sound waves had on different materials through which they passed.
Not so long after this exploration, jazz musician Fabien Marman began working with physicist Joel Sternheimer after he noticed that particular keys seemed to affect the energy of performers and their audience members positively. Marman continued his research with Helene Grimal, a National Centre for Scientific Research in Paris researcher. With Grimal, Marman found that cells in the human body responded to sound, most notably the sound of the human voice.
After much research into sound therapy, scientists have amassed an impressively large menu of potential benefits to the use of this therapy. Don Campbell, author of the book “The Mozart Effect,” found that music, specifically music composed by Mozart, could enhance concentration. He also found that unborn babies’ heart rates would steady when pregnant mothers listened to music by Mozart of Vivaldi.
In a much less pleasant experiment, Alfred Wolfson found that if he replicated the sounds of war with his voice he could ease his mental anguish over his World War I experience. While there is less peer-reviewed research to support it, some researchers state that the introduction of certain tones can curb physical pains or slow the spread of cancer. Because the use of sound is so non-invasive, trying this type of treatment, particularly when paired with other options, has few negative side effects, even if it doesn’t produce the desired result.
Professional sound therapists use various methods, selecting the appropriate ones to suit their patients’ needs. Most commonly, sound therapists use metal bowls and tuning forks to produce a set and focused pitch. These therapists produce the desired sounds in close proximity to the patient in question or they focus the sound toward the location of the malady.
Some sound therapists use their voices. In some cases, practitioners of this art will vocalize, projecting their oral tones toward different areas on the body and listen to differences in returning tones, seeking to find the source of the patient’s ailment. Once the sound therapist using this method has done so, he or she will focus his or her voice at that area and seek to ease the patient’s physical symptoms and, ultimately, cure the underlying issue.
Not all practitioners of sound therapy are professionals, however. Even though you likely haven’t seriously considered, or maybe even heard of, sound therapy before, you have almost certainly been a novice practitioner. If you’ve ever slipped on some headphones and listened to a rhythmic rap before taking the court at a basketball game or secreted away to your bedroom and put on a record of your grandmother’s favorite song to help you cope with the emotions surrounding losing her, you have practice at-home sound therapy.
Whether practiced by a licensed sound therapist or as a simple self-remedy to ease your symptoms, sound therapy can provide a non-invasive, entirely natural treatment option. With the research to back up this beneficial practice and the relative simplicity of incorporating it into your routine, there isn’t much reason not to seek out a clinician or thumb through your iPod playlist.