Sound Therapy


Sound therapy (sometimes known sound healing or vibrational therapy) is a treatment method that uses measureable amounts of sound wavelengths and frequencies to promote healing. Sound therapy includes not only music, but any sound vibration treatment, which may include sounds that can be felt but not heard. A subset of sound therapy, called sounding, focuses on how individual use their own voice and listening abilities to help their communication with the outside world.

Sound therapy advocates believe organs and cells resonate at certain frequencies in the body. Sound therapy is able to manipulate those frequencies and vibrations that correspond with certain organs and cells in the body, and when applied can help to promote healing in those organs and cells. Illnesses are believed to change the frequencies in organs and cells, and sound therapy is believed to correct that change. Additionally, sound therapy practitioners claim that sound vibrations are able to affect a patient’s heart rate, breathing rate, and brain wave patterns, while music promotes relaxation and the release of endorphins (which are linked to happiness and pain-killing).

The History of Sound Therapy

The study of music therapy began in the 1920s, when it was found that blood pressure could be lowered by listening to music. Sound therapy, however, has been used for thousands of years. After music therapy was studied, scientists began experimenting with different types of sounds and vibrations, using feedback loops and electronic devices to achieve the desired effects. 

Sounding, a subset of sound therapy, was created by Don Campbell after extensive research on sound and voice. Campbell believed that an individual’s voice, as one of our first communication tools, was of the utmost importance in communicating with the outside world. For example, infants use “coos” and “woos” to indicate happiness and other less pleasant sounds to indicate unhappiness or pain. So before humans learned language, they use sound to communicate with the outside world. However, Campbell was distressed that once children enter school, they are told to sit down and be quiet, repressing that same communication tool that was important early on. He believed that this repression tended to inhibit growth of minds, bodies, and emotions.

Sounding allows individuals to reject this inhibition, and express themselves verbally, much as they do during other creative art forms such as music, dance, and painting. This speech expression allows individuals to find their voice and also allow the world around them to know what they are thinking and feeling. Campbell believed that there was a balance to be found between how individuals are expected to act in society, keeping their innermost thoughts from others, and how individuals would benefits from verbal self-expression at times. He found that by the time individuals finished college, they were under various degrees of stress because they had been inhibiting their thoughts and feelings for so many years. This stress had a direct effect on the healthiness of those individuals’ minds and bodies.

Don Campbell concluded that the art of expressing one’s self verbally was a lifelong process, and should be constantly practiced instead of repressed. Additionally, he believed that learning to listen was a vital part of this practice of expression, as one cannot communicate without being able to listen well. He felt that listening would enable individuals to choose the right time to communicate thoughts and feelings which might otherwise remain repressed.

How Sound Therapy is Practiced

Sound therapy is a unique treatment in that there is no normal approach to the therapy. It can be done in conjunction with a traditional treatment plan, or informally through a third party or on one’s own. The therapy may also be done for various lengths of time, over a long period to aid recovery from a major medical issue, or for a short time to deal with a small health problem.

Often, a sound therapy session begins with an extensive interview, with the detailing of a patient’s medical and psychological issues. From there, a sound therapists will try different types of sound therapy to help the patient, including chants, mantras, rhythmic breathing, or direction of sound waves (sometimes at frequencies so high the patient cannot hear them) at the patient.

Sounding, a form of sound therapy, may be practiced in just five to eight minutes per day. For example, sounding can be humming along to music when driving a car, or to an individual’s own tune without any music at all. This sort of exercise relaxes the chin and jaw, which in turn serve to relax the body and mind. Campbell found that while the left part of the brain would likely think that the exercise is trivial or silly, the right part of the brain truly benefited from the self-expression and exercise.

How Sound Therapy Works

Sound therapy covers anything from vibrations to music to electronic noise, and may also include wind chimes, tuning forks, Tibetan singing bowls, drums, gongs, and Australian didgeridoos. Sounding usually involves humming and mouth exercises.

Conditions Benefited by Sound Therapy


Music played during or after a surgery may help reduce postoperative pain, anxiety, and consumption of morphine, according to a trial published in the European Journal of Anesthesiology in 2005 (the trial was of 75 patients).


Music may help women avoid anesthesia during labor, and increase the likelihood of satisfaction with caesarean section delivery.

Palliative care

A 2005 review in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative medicine found that music therapy for hospice and palliative care patients may help ease pain, fatigue, and anxiety, as well as boost mood and improve quality of life in the patients.

Gait disturbances

Individuals with Parkinson’s disease may be able to walk with better strides, cadence, and foot placement if they listen to music. Additionally, their muscle activity may become more efficient if synchronized with music and embedded metronomic pulses.

Mental skills

Children with dyslexia, learning disorders, autism, and attention deficit disorder may see improvements in behavior from a type of sound therapy called the Tomatis method, which calls for modified auditory feedback.

Other Conditions

Sound therapy is believed to help individuals with arthritis, headaches, gout, high blood pressure, joint pains, recovery from surgery, stress, tension, and depression.


  1. Bratman, S. The Alternative Medicine Ratings Guide: an expert panel rates the best treatments for over 80 conditions, Prima Health A Division of Prima Publishing (1998)
  2. Brown, L. Alternative Medicine, NTC/Contemporary Publishing (1999)
  3. Deepak Chopra, M.D. Alternative Medicine: The Definitive Guide, Celestial Arts (2002)
  4. Nancy Allison. The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Body-Mind Disciplines, The Rosen Publishing Group (1999)
  5. Servan-Schreiber, D. The Encyclopedia of New Medicine: Conventional & Alternative Medicine For All Ages, Rodale International Limited (2006)

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