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Therapeutic Listening (TL) entails more than just listening to music. It requires specialized headphones and equipment. Learn about TL equipment and examples of TL at work in this lesson.

Brief Overview of Therapeutic Listening

Amelia can hear just fine, but understanding what she hears is where she has immense difficulty.

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This is due to a disconnect between her ear and brain. Amelia has been diagnosed with auditory processing disorder (APD). Her doctor recommends Therapeutic Listening (TL) as a treatment.Therapeutic Listening (TL) is an evidence-based specialized therapy program for children or adults that involves listening to music or sounds through specialized headphones while physically moving about in a way that helps improve the skills of which one is deficient. TL can aid in a number of skill deficits and can help improve skills such as attention, balance, social skills, flexibility, sleep and bowel control, mood, sensory sensitivity and auditory processing.

In her TL therapy sessions, Amelia listens to music on specialized headphones and moves about in sync with the music. The pitch of the music is altered to trigger the areas in her brain that assist in auditory processing. After several months of TL, Amelia is doing significantly better.

Equipment for Therapeutic Listening

There are three pieces of equipment needed for Therapeutic Listening: the headphones, CDs and a CD player. Therapy offices that offer Therapeutic Listening may contain gymnastics-type equipment to engage the children in the therapy session while they listen to their music.


You cannot use typical earbuds for TL. You must use specialized headphones that meet precise qualifications for this type of therapy. Imagine large hefty headphones with comfortable foam ear cushions. TL music and sounds are adjusted specifically based on each individual case. The pitch, tone, volume, frequency and melody are adjusted to target different areas in the vestibular system of the inner ear and different areas of the brain in the central nervous system.

A regular pair of headphones would not be able to pick up these sound variations.The headphones can be purchased from various private vendors and organizations online. The headphones with the highest quality and price tag for TL are the HD500A Sennheiser stereo headphones. If a person wanted to buy a less expensive pair of headphones that are still approved for Therapeutic Listening, they could get the Therapeutic Listening headphones.

CDs and CD Player

Other needed equipment are the assigned CDs with a CD player. Children who are doing TL usually use a waist pack to hold their CD player so that they can move about as they listen.

The CDs can contain anything from popular music to classical music to nature sounds. It really depends on the individual needs of the client. A person trained to alter the CDs sounds, frequencies and pitch based on the individual client’s needs will do so before they are given to the client. For example, if a client is having difficulty with language and communication, their CDs may be adjusted to trigger the frontal lobe in the brain which is responsible for these functions.

The frontal lobe is essentially the control panel of the brain and responsible for language, problem solving, judgment, sexual behavior and emotional expression.
Physical and Occupational Therapy Equipment

In a Therapeutic Listening session with a qualified therapist, such as an occupational therapist, exercise balls, swings, toys, gymnastics pads and ladders are utilized in order to engage the client (usually a child) in active play while listening to the CDs. Children and adults in TL sessions are not allowed to watch TV, play with a tablet, or use any other screen or form of technology during this time. Play with equipment allows children to practice skills such as balance, coordination and hand-eye coordination if they are deficient in these areas.

Examples of Therapeutic Listening at Work

Scenario 1: Brianna

Brianna is a 9-year-old girl who has difficulties with attention, poor handwriting and reading. Brianna began Therapeutic Listening to help with these issues, yet her mother reports that she acquired so many more benefits from the program than expected. During her Therapeutic Listening sessions, Brianna enjoys swinging on a swing and bouncing up and down on an exercise ball.

After a few months on the program, her mood has improved as she is happier and calmer. She has progressed in her social skills, as she no longer has difficulty making friends. Her handwriting and attention has improved as well.

Scenario 2: James

James is a 4-year-old boy with Autism.

He has poor attention span, hand-eye coordination, body and spatial awareness, motor planning, social engagement and organized play. He begins Therapeutic Listening. In the first three days on the program, James resists wearing the specialized headphones. On the third day, he wears the headphones without difficulty. His therapist engages him in play during the 30-minute therapy by playing a bowling game, climbing a swinging ladder, or jumping off of elevated padded surfaces in the therapy room.

Yet he is unable to concentrate on what the therapist asks or follow instructions in play activities.Three months into the program, James is calmer and more regulated and able to engage in more organized play activities like completing an obstacle course from start to finish in the therapy room. He also communicates more, sleeps better, can hit a ball with a bat, and demonstrates better flexibility to new foods, routines and activities.

Lesson Summary

Therapeutic Listening (TL) is an evidence-based specialized therapy program for children or adults that involves listening to music or sounds through specialized headphones while physically moving about in a way that helps improve the skills of which one is deficient. TL can help with deficiencies in attention, social skills, sensory processing and bodily functions, to name just a few examples.Specialized headphones, individually tailored CDs, a CD player and gymnastics equipment (if doing the TL is a therapy center) are usually the equipment involved in TL sessions.

Clients of TL are not allowed to use technology during their 30 minute sessions and are required to do two sessions a day during the therapy time period, with no less than three hours in between sessions.

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