April 3, 2018

The First Law of Tomatis

I'm living proof. I swear I am.

I obtained new hearing aids about a week ago after acquiring my first pair nine years ago. My first pair were made by Phonak. Top of the line. With a music program and two microphones in each ear. Teflon coating that meant I could wear them in the rain. You get the idea. They were good stuff. 

Now I have two spanking new Resound aids from Denmark, which has taken the market by storm—zipping past competitors with a chip that processes higher frequencies better. My new guys even talk to one another and utilize an app which interfaces seamlessly with my iPhone—all fine-tuned by my excellent audiologist who tells me there were four leaps in technology while I was having fun with my Phonaks. Why didn't I get new ones sooner? They are expensive, and I was doing quite well until one of the four microphones started to give out. So I made the leap. 

But let's back up. Living proof of what exactly?  

Tomatis' First Law, which states that the larynx cannot produce sounds which the ear cannot hear. 

I do not say this lightly. After a week of tooling around, I believe I am singing with the full ability or function I was born with sans genetic hearing loss; which was first noticed—and dismissed—by the audiologist who tested me the year before I entered college.

My range has extended at either end and I am experiencing a delicious sense of ease—so much so that I am teased into thinking I'm not doing a damn thing at all. Of course I am. I know my P's and Q's technique-wise, which is the result of many years of teaching and working on my voice. Yes, the knowledge I have stuffed into my brain and the hours spent practicing counts for something. But here's the thing: give a guy the ability to process technical knowledge with better input to the brain via the ear and it will amount to something. All this to say: Tomatis was a genius—and I believe I prove him right since my new aids give me increased function via better perception of higher frequencies. It's a real kick and something of an odd sensation to hear one's voice as though for the first time. 

I've been singing all my life. I had a 23-year career with a major opera company. I wasn't doing badly. In fact, I believe the technique I was taught made my career possible. Yes, luck had something to do with it, but even luck needs preparation. But let's be clear: even a small drop in the listening curve isn't inconsequential.

Was I was intuitively interested in matters of technique as a result of hearing loss years before I knew it even mattered? Probably. You could also say that addressing that loss gave me the means to understand the principles of the old Italian school of singing in a new way. 

I have colleagues who are terrified of anyone finding out about their hearing loss. Not me. It's the deal, in as much as anything is the deal in our lives. Better to face it so that others can face it. That's why I write about it here. If you are a singer or voice teacher with hearing loss you owe it to yourself to do something about it. Your voice and students will thank you. On that score, I should mention that before one of my microphones starting failing, I had a 10-day tune-up via the Listening Centre in Toronto, which has proven to be the perfect jump-start for getting used to my new processors. Really good people who do life-changing work, I recommend the Listening Centre to you highly, especially if you are dealing with matters of audition.

Some day, a different kind of genius is going to invent a way to regenerate hair cells in the cochlea. Until that happens, those with hearing loss have better options than a decade ago.

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