Auditory integration training (AIT) decreases hearing sensitivity and improves behavioural issues in people diagnosed with autism
People diagnosed with autism have been shown to have two hearing related impairments. The first is called hyperacusis, which an increased sensitivity to certain frequency and volume ranges of sound. The second impairment is called tinnitus, which is the perception of sound when no actual external noise is present. Both conditions are debilitating leading to peer isolation and sound avoidance. But, Auditory integration training, which aims to re- educate the hearing process has been proven to reduce hypersensitity to sounds in autistic patients.
The hearing hypersensitiveness has been linked to an auditory input abnormality seen in people diagnosed with autism, which may be the reason why autistic patients are observed to have language deficits. Language deficits lead to behavioural issues caused by the frustration of not being able to communicate efficiently. However, as Auditory Integration Training decreases hypersensivity, behavioural issues like irritability, hyperactivity and other behavioural domains ameliorate.
These positive results were seen in a study in which 9 people diagnosed with autism listened to AIT processed music for a total of 10 hours over a 10- to 20-day period. Their behavioural, electrophysiological (ERP), and audiometric measures were assessed prior to and following AIT. It was observed a significant decrease in Aberrant Behavior Checklist scores in the experimental group at the 3-month follow-up assessment.
A clinician review on Auditory Integration Training discussed the improvements in subjects with a variety of disorders. Most importantly, it was observed that uncomfortable loudness thresholds (UCLS) improved in the 24 people diagnosed with autism that underwent AIT. It was also observed an improvement in their speech perception in the quiet and noisy conditions following AIT.
What methods of Auditory Integration Training are available?
There are three methods to deliver auditory training to subjects suffering from hearing hypersensitivity. They are: Tomatis Method ,Samonas Sound Therapy and Berard’s method.
This method involves involves listening to 10 hours of electronically modified music delivered by headphones during 2 half-hour daily sessions over 10 days. The AIT device uses filtering to dampen peak frequencies to which the individual is hypersensitive and delivers sounds modulated by random dampening of high and low frequencies and intensities.
Tomatis sound therapy, uses electronically modified human voice and music, delivered via the “Electronic Ear.” Programs are individualised with duration of therapy varying and breaks scheduled between treatment blocks.
The Samona’s method involves listening to filtered music, voice and sounds of nature recorded on compact discs through headphones. Each session take place under a therapist’s supervision and also at home. The duration and frequency of treatment is at the discretion of the therapist for each individual patient and there are no specific guidelines.