Music Therapy, Sensory Integration, and the Autistic Child

By Dorita S. Berger | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 6
Are you Listening?

Part One: About Hearing and Listening

There is extensive literature detailing the biological attributes of the auditory system and the physiologic process of hearing. Auditory perception is quite another matter. How do the physiologic attributes of the auditory system come into play in the work of music therapy? What are some misconceptions about the hearing and perceiving of auditory information that could lead to misinterpretation of behavioral responses to sound, music, language and sensory processing.

Audition, the act of hearing, is predominantly a passive sub-cortical process. Sound energy and vibrations are everywhere in the environment and are quite unavoidable. Sound perception, the interpretation of sounds, is more complex. This involves an active exchange of communication between sub-cortical processes – instinct – and cortical processes, i.e. the conscious mind. Hearing and perceiving sound, from the cricket's chirp to a Beethoven symphony, are two distinctly different and complicated operations. Not one aspect of these can be taken for granted, nor ordinary assumptions made, when working with issues of sensory integration.

It is interesting to note that both the auditory and vestibular sensory systems operate through the same organ: the ear. Sound must travel through the vestibular canals in the ear, which consist of different tubes adjacent to each other, so there is an implied relationship between hearing and balance. Youngsters with recurrent ear infections, problems with ear drainage or tubes blockages in the Eustachian tubes, could encounter both vestibular and auditory problems simultaneously.

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