Sound Therapy

A unique therapeutic treatment designed specifically for older adults in Retirement and Long Term Care Communities.

What is Sound Therapy?

Sound Therapy is an ancient practice with roots in many cultures worldwide (Shamanist Tibet, Indigenous Australia, Ancient Egypt, and more). Today, Sound Therapy is increasingly popular due to a growing body of research on its evidence-based health benefits. Sound Therapy can quickly and effectively bring about a mindful, meditative state in its participants, which is scientifically proven to increase relaxation and positive emotions, promote healing, and reduce symptoms of mental illness and physical pain. There are both immediate benefits after one treatment as well as long-term benefits from repeated Sound Therapy sessions.

Why is Sound Therapy beneficial for older adults in Retirement Communities?

There is extensive research on the benefits of mindfulness for older adults, including: pain management, better sleep and digestion, lower blood pressure, less stress and muscle tension, as well as spiritual well-being. However, there are barriers that prevent the average senior citizen from accessing these benefits. For individuals in retirement communities, mindfulness is a new or unknown concept. In addition, simply playing a meditation track might not be a sufficient method to enable individuals to experience these benefits. Sound Therapy is an enjoyable and straightforward way for seniors to experience mindful meditation.

How about Long Term Care?

Auditory sensory stimulation has extensive benefits for the wide range of people who live in LTC. These benefits include decreasing anxiety and depression, improving cognitive symptoms and preventing decline, as well as managing and reducing responsive behaviours. Sound can help people with dementia recall positive memories and emotions. Sound also gives them an opportunity to feel connected with the world around them.

What happens during a Sound & Sensory Therapy session?

Sound Therapy can treat individuals (in 20 min sessions) or a group of people (in 60 min sessions). Each session will start with a friendly welcome and discussion explaining the treatment and what to expect. During the treatment, the facilitator plays instruments that create specific types of sound waves. These instruments include singing bowls, chimes, gongs, temple blocks, pitched drums, as well as instruments that replicate nature sounds. These sounds enable listeners to easily enter a state of deep relaxation and mindfulness. Unlike a concert, participants are encouraged to close their eyes, focus on themselves, and explore their own inner experiences in response to the sound. After a Sound Therapy treatment, participants will feel relaxed, refreshed, and positive.

Where does a Sound & Sensory treatment take place?

Sound Therapy is best facilitated in enclosed rooms where lighting can be dimmed. Participants will be seated in a circle around the facilitator – in a position that is most comfortable for them. This may mean sitting in chairs, reclining, or laying down. Let us know about your space and we can tailor the experience to your facilities.

The Science of Sound Therapy

Sound waves are sensed by the vestibulocochlear nerve in the ear. This nerve connects directly to the vagus nerve, which activates the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). The PNS regulates your sleep, digestion, healing and immune responses. When activated, the PNS lowers your blood pressure and relaxes your muscles, while also controlling your blood glucose levels and hormones. Sound waves can also influence your brainwave frequencies. Several states of alertness and consciousness in different parts of the brain generate varying frequencies of sound waves. Sound Therapy uses Theta frequencies to create a state of profound relaxation associated with meditation, REM dreaming, and long-distance running.

Short-Term Benefits
(after 1 treatment)

  • Increase positive emotions and feelings of spiritual well-being
  • Increase an individual’s ability to withstand chronic pain or manage the way they perceive their pain
  • Reduce and prevent insomnia
  • Increase appetite in under-stimulated individuals
  • Manage responsive behaviours
  • Evoke positive imagery and memories
  • Increase engagement and connectedness with the surrounding environment and people
  • Increase relaxation and enjoyment

Long-Term Benefits
(After repeated treatments)

  • Reduce depression and anxiety
  • Reduce chronic stress and associated physical symptoms
  • Improve sleep and reduce pain
  • Increase the amount of time that the body can focus on healing (by activating the parasympathetic nervous system.)
  • Strengthen the immune system and aid digestion (by activating the parasympathetic nervous system)
  • Lower blood pressure and muscle tension
  • Retain cognitive functioning
  • Reduce responsive behaviours

The Research

  • One 2016 study of 62 adults gauged their feelings before and after a Sound Therapy treatment. The researchers found that tension, anxiety, and negative moods decreased significantly after the therapy. These study participants tended to rank their pain higher before Sound Therapy than they did afterward.
  • A 2018 study with 60 participants asked 30 of them to listen to the music of Tibetan singing bowls before getting surgery. The other 30 participants were not given any music before surgery. Analysis found that heart rate and other vitals that indicate anxiety improved in those who listened to the Tibetan singing bowl music.
  • In a 2020 research review that analyzed four studies, improvements in distressed mood, tension, anger, and confusion were seen in study participants after Sound Therapy. Physical symptoms such as blood pressure and heart rate also saw improvement.

About the Facilitator

Shannon Graham has a B. Music, Dip. Recreation Therapy, and is an accredited Sound Therapy & Sound Healing practitioner. She has been performing music for 11 years, practicing and studying mindfulness meditation for 8 years, and facilitating mindfulness workshops for 2 years. As an entertainer and a sound therapy facilitator, she has a passion for using music to improve the well-being of others.

References for Further Reading