Auditory integration training (AIT) is an alternative therapy to help people with learning disabilities address hypersensitivity to sound that distorts what they hear. It involves listening to random musical sounds that are varied in volume and pitch to help the brain process sensory input more quickly. Auditory integration training is suitable for those with autism, attention deficit disorder with or without hyperactivity, and central processing disorder.
Some people with these learning disabilities are hypersensitive to certain frequencies and become agitated or disoriented because the brain cannot process the information it receives. Hearing sounds differently in each ear also contributes to confusion trying to identify a noise and where it originates. AIT works to prepare neurons in the brain to process unexpected sound faster and interpret it.
Normally, sound is processed through five separate areas of the brain. Both sides of the brain work to discriminate tone, frequency, and speech patterns. AIT teaches the brain to process unexpected, random sounds faster, creating new neural pathways to interpret input.
The first phase of auditory integration training involves testing sound responses using low static and digital screening. Patients who had frequent, early ear infections or speech problems are likely candidates for the test. If hearing is asymmetrical, meaning different in each ear, the person might benefit from AIT. The exam measures how sound is processed to determine if retraining the brain might help improve auditory hypersensitivity.
Auditory integration training was developed by the ear, nose, and throat specialist Dr. Guy Berard in France. Originally, the method was used on people who suffered a hearing loss in the middle ear. Berard theorized that distortions in sound contribute to learning disabilities and behavioral problems. His method consists of two 30-minute sessions a day listening to random music over a 10-day period. Certain frequencies may be blocked from the music depending on the patient’s test results.
Proponents of auditory integration training say people with autism show fewer instances of being startled by an unexpected noise. Children might attain better language skills, school performance, and socialization skills. They may also improve eye-hand coordination and improved language comprehension. Adults who complete AIT report they sleep better and have less trouble concentrating.
The results of studies conducted on auditory integration training are mixed. Some research found no improvement, while other studies found substantial benefits from the therapy. It is considered costly by some, and it may be difficult for a child with learning disabilities to sit still throughout the 20 sessions required. Those who choose AIT should make sure the practitioner is experienced in the process and possesses the proper equipment.