At the Vermont Center for Auditory Education, we offer the Berard method of Auditory Integration Training, adhering to his protocols and using his approved device (the Earducator). As the developer of AIT, with more than 30 years of experience backing his protocol, we feel that his methods are the most reliable available. All of the published research on the efficacy of AIT has used Dr. Berard’s protocols and equipment, and it has the longest record of use of any form of Auditory Integration Technique.
The AIT Process at the Vermont Center for Auditory Education
The first step in the AIT process is an initial interview, either in person or on the phone, to evaluate the appropriateness of AIT for each client, to answer questions about AIT and what the program involves, to take a history and identify areas that need to be addressed during the program, arrange for the listening sessions, and develop an individualized program for each client.
Prior to the first listening session, within 2 weeks of beginning, there will be an initial auditory screening. An examination by an audiologist will check on the health of the ears (excess fluid, blockages etc. will contra-indicate AIT), and identify hearing patterns (laterality and selectivity, as well as hypo or hyper-sensitivity). This testing will be repeated at the mid-point of the listening program and after its completion. If a client cannot be tested for some reason, AIT is still possible. Alternate evaluations can be discussed.
With any form of training, two of the most important factors are intensity and repetition. To that end, Dr. Berard has established a listening schedule that enables AIT to be effective without being excessive. The ideal number of listening hours for AIT is 10. A program may have only 9 or 9 ½ hours, when scheduling necessitates; but 10 hours is the standard. More than 10 hours is unnecessary and may possibly be counter-productive.
Twenty listening sessions, two half hour sessions a day with a minimum of 3 hours between each session, is the recommended schedule. Consecutive days are preferable, but it is possible to have a 1-2 day break after 10 hours of listening have been completed. Schedules can be arranged with some flexibility.
Listening sessions take place in a quiet, comfortable room with few distractions. There is space for a parent to remain with a child, if necessary. The session will last for 30 minutes, during which time the client will be listening to specially modified music through high quality headphones.
The device used in AIT, known as the Earducator, uses a dual filtering system. The first one uses wide-band filters (usually referred to as “modulation”) which treats all music emanating from the Earducator. This process attenuates the sounds on a random basis; it alternates muting/amplifying low and high frequency ranges throughout the course of the listening session. This modulation is the basis of AIT effectiveness, and for many clients may be the only form of filtering used.
The second filtering system uses narrow-band filters, which are activated by the AIT practitioner when indicated by the results of auditory tests. These filters are generally applied to frequencies that a person hears “too well”…frequencies that show as an auditory peak in relation to adjacent frequencies on an audiogram. Where a valid audiogram is not obtainable, or when the criteria for narrow-band filtering is not met in the results of an audiogram, there is no use of these narrow-band filters.
The volume of music listened to via the Earducator is always within a safe level. It never exceeds 80 decibels, which is well under the limit set by OSHA for safe listening. The music will be perceived as “loud” however, and this is a necessary part of AIT. The volume will be increased gradually during the first session or two, and this process can be drawn out a bit longer for listeners who have greater sensitivity to loud noises. Listeners may experience moments of discomfort during a listening session as a result of certain frequency combinations in the music; this is normal and not of any concern.
It is preferable for the listener to relax and listen actively during the listening sessions. This means that playing, reading, eating or engaging in other distracting activities should be avoided (or kept to a minimum when unavoidable). Dr. Berard explains that when a person is interested in doing something (and most “somethings” will be more interesting to the listener than listening!), it is possible for the ear/brain to avoid the disturbance of sounds coming to one’s ear. In this case, it would mean selectively filtering out the AIT music. When Dr. Berard instituted a no-distraction policy in his office, his statistics confirmed the improvement of the results with all his clients…children and adults.
In situations where a client (most particularly clients on the autism-spectrum) can not sit still to listen, it is permissible to use techniques from Sensory Integration programs. These can include swinging, blanket wraps or weighted blankets for pressure, holding a simple toy or nibbling/sipping a non-sugary snack.
Post AIT Support:
Support and counsel is available throughout the entire process; from the initial interview, through meetings during and after the listening sessions, and to resources and support after the program is completed in the form of a newsletter and availability to past clients by phone and email. We help clients find local resources that will allow them to continue to grow and change even after the AIT program is done. We encourage client to keep in touch and to let us know how they are progressing.
Before & After AIT
Before: Prior to beginning an AIT program, it is helpful if parents of tactile sensitive children help them get used to wearing headphones. Even if a child is not sensitive to the physical sensation of wearing headphones, the newness of it may be overwhelming when listening sessions begin and it can be useful to help them know what to expect. More ideas about preparing children for AIT are included in our information packet for new clients.
Some forms of auditory problems can be linked to bio-chemical issues. We encourage parents to check for any health related factors that may affect hearing. This includes the use of drugs that are ototoxic, heavy metal toxicity (especially mercury), and vitamin deficiencies (such as magnesium). A list of possible factors is included in our client packets, or feel free to contact us for more information.
During: There are a lot of changes happening during the AIT program. We encourage clients to be aware of this and to minimize stress as much as possible during that time. It is not unusual for a client to experience fatigue (from slight tiredness to sleeping during the day), appetite changes (increased or decreased appetite, liking or disliking new foods etc.), mood swings (including happiness and euphoria as well as grumpiness and aggression) and other discomforts during AIT. These are always transitory, not detrimental and do not appear in every case; Dr. Berard found that the stronger the responses were during the sessions, the greater the changes on the next audiogram he would observe. We are there during this time to help with these changes, which are positive signs of a disorganized system being re-organized.
After: We have many resources to share to help continue the changes AIT began. However, there are a few things that should be avoided after AIT or the responses may be undone. One is the use of headphones, or rather, the avoidance of headphones. Listening to music through headphones is definitely contra-indicated after AIT, the use of them for other purposes is not encouraged. Prolonged use frequently shifts the hearing patterns back to where they were before AIT.
Similarly, avoid exposure to loud noises which may cause a regression of the hearing. This isn’t such a surprise, since loud noise is not good even for people who have never had problems with their auditory system!
Finally, be aware of the potential of many drugs to be ototoxic. These substances affect the function of the ear in different ways; some only for the time taking them, others for a while after or even permanently. We do include a list of know ototoxic substances in our client packet, but it is a good idea to check out every drug that you take as new medicines are constantly being introduced. Asking your doctor can be helpful, but not every doctor will realize that what is a “slight chance of complications” for most patients could be a much more serious one for a person with a history of hearing dysfunction.
Scheduling and Fees
Scheduling is flexible, with sessions beginning each month. Since many clients are school-aged, sessions can be arranged during holidays to minimize missed class time. While most sessions are held at our office, the program can be offered at other locations when there is enough interest. If you are involved in a group or institution that might like to host a program, let us know.
The cost for the AIT program is $850.00 and includes all the aspects of the program described earlier on this page, except for the audiological testing. That component is paid directly to the audiologist and ranges between $150 to $200 per client. This allows for some flexibility, since some clients are not testable or may need to be tested for one or more of the three tests by someone outside of our area. The Center is able to accept payment by credit card (Visa, M/C & AmEx) for those who wish to do so. At this time, we are not able to accept insurance, but we hope to have that option in the future. Vermont residents may use vouchers from social services when applicable.
Fees for programs offered outside of the office are determined on a per case basis. Please contact us for a quote.