May 25, 2016

Seeing Your Sound

Dr. Tomatis did not look at the functioning of the ear in the same manner as his contemporaries. Typically the ear is considered to have three parts: the outer, middle and inner ear. Dr. Tomatis, instead, expressed the need to look at the ear as an external and internal ear. The separation is between the second and third bone of the ear in the middle ear cavity. He theorized that the function of the three bones is one of protection because they dampen (or muffle) the excessive vibrational energy coming from the ear canal. He also stated that the stapedius muscle is the most active muscle in the body. It is always working. 

Additionally, Dr. Tomatis theorized that hearing occurs because sound is transmitted through the bones of the skull and not through the three bones of the middle ears. Specifically, he felt that the temporal bone receives sound from the eardrum. The bone then vibrates, sending sound to the basilar membrane in the cochlea where the Organ of Corti is. From there sound is transmitted to the brain. 

He felt that the purpose of the three bones in the middle ear was for the pneumatic regulation of sound. They control the variations of air pressure between the outer and inner ear. The system is regulated but not through frequency. The stapedius muscle must keep vigilant to regulate the pressure in the inner ear. The tensor tympani must keep vigilant and remain tonic to outer messages. In order for the middle ear to work well, it must be able to withstand the higher intensities for longer periods of time. The stapedius muscle must remain vigilant and be maximally effective to do this. Because sound is transmitted through bone conduction, internal localization of sound can occur. This localization then makes the entire cochlea vibrate sending the necessary sound to the brain. Dr. Tomatis felt that the brain receives more stimuli from the ears than from any other organ. High frequency sound can bring about maximal cortical recharging. 

Dr. Tomatis also stressed the connection with the face. The facial nerve innervates the muscles of the face, including the lips. These muscles are important for intelligibility of speech, and the clarity of one's voice. The same nerve also innervates the stapedius muscle in the middle ear, and also the muscle that opens the mouth, the digastric muscle. The trigeminal nerve connects to the tensor tympani muscle in the middle ear as well as the master and temporal muscles that allow us to chew and close our mouths. Is it any wonder that Dr. Tomatis surmised an ear-face connection? 

Excerpt from Chapter 5, "Sounds Bodies through Sound Therapy," by Corinne S. Davis, director of the Davis Center.


A really good voice teacher can take one look and see what is going to come out of your mouth when you take a breath—even before you take a breath. Why? The face is inextricably connected with the ear, and the ear with the voice.

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