Auditory stimulation is the use of focused sounds to produce an effect on the nervous system. This sort of stimulation can be used as a part of sensory therapy in people with disabilities such as partial deafness or blindness or in people with attention deficit disorder or autism. It can also be used to help people develop or recover language skills, and might be applied as part of an accelerated learning program.
For people with hearing impairments or auditory processing disorders, auditory stimulation is believed to help increase their ability to process sounds. Some types of auditory stimulation allow a patient to manipulate sounds using gestures or body movement while other types might relate sound to visual stimulation like pictures or colors.
Auditory stimulation therapy can also be used for patients with disabilities in developing, understanding, or producing language, to train their brains to focus on the frequencies and sounds necessary to accurately interpret speech. This type of therapy combines listening to recorded music and language phonemes to increase the brain's ability to tune out “unnecessary” sounds, like background noise or very low frequency sounds.
People with autism, dementia, or brain damage can use combined sensory stimulation like Snoezelen Multi-Sensory Environment therapy for relaxation or learning purposes. Developed in the Netherlands, Snoezelen rooms are places where patients can manipulate lights, sounds, and various types of tactile stimuli to create an environment in which he or she is comfortable or happy. This type of therapy does not have a focused outcome, but rather is designed to stimulate and comfort the patient.
Auditory stimulation that combines music and language is central to the theory behind Suggestopedia, a language teaching method developed by Bulgarian psychologist Georgi Lozanov. This approach to second language learning combines Baroque music and a teacher reading target language material. Lozanov believes that music at 60 beats per minute, which mimics the human heartbeat, helps create a calm, relaxing environment where students lose their fears associated with learning, which leads them to acquire the new language more effectively.
Another type of auditory stimulation that builds on Lozanov’s theories is used in accelerated learning programs for gifted children. In this theoretical approach to learning, music is played at 60 beats per minute which is believed to create Alpha brain waves. In the Alpha state, the brain is thought to be most receptive to learning, so anything taught will be learned and retained more effectively.