Review of Rossa Forbes’s The Scenic Route: A Way through Madness’


Rossa Forbes writes about her son’s schizophrenia with the clarity of an investigative reporter. She describes Chris’s symptoms as she observed and learned about them, including a very interesting perspective on his childhood for anyone alert to symptoms of early ear dysfunction. She faces with ruthless honesty the psychiatric and pharmaceutical establishments in her country of origin, Canada, and in Switzerland where the family was living. If she had been treated with equal candour and willingness to learn, she would have had a better grasp of Chris’s weak self-control, fragile grip on reality, fatigue, altered learning abilities, and other personality changes, as well as with the effects of medication on his former capabilities. Instead, like so many parents and caregivers, she had to learn about those characteristics of schizophrenia and of psychoactive drugs through trial and error. Like any parent whose child has been committed to an institutional setting for his or her protection, and the protection of others, she gradually learned that the medical/psychiatric profession strategies and medications do not heal, only control. At the same time, she noticed that vague hopes and promises of improvement came with those strategies and that they were proving false.

After three years of co-operating with this misleading medicalized paradigm, Forbes decided to explore other possibilities. She conceded the need for some medication, but she withdrew her son and the family from group therapy and she contested the authority of the prescribing physician. She also was inspired to enter into those adventures in alternative therapies with Chris on his “hero’s journey.” The Scenic Route has a peculiar value as a record of those primarily “non-medical” interventions and of how Forbes experienced them, as well as how she evaluated her son’s reactions to them.

I view those alternative therapies from the perspective of a parent who healed her son’s schizophrenia by strengthening his right ear with an innovative music therapy — on three separate occasions. I derived a neurological paradigm based on my observations and research. I have counselled people using music therapies for a decade. My personal experiences with singing, humming, ambient music, the Tomatis Method, Bérard’s Audio Integration Training (AIT), and my personal use of headphones binaurally and right-ear only (“Focused Listening”) give me a strongly biased view of Chris’s progress through his various adventures. I note that some of the interventions he and his mother used involved types of sound I would consider damaging. His travels often subjected him to the noxious sound of jet engines that can be devastating to weak ears, which may have contributed to his first psychotic break. However, Chris took singing lessons and often participated in performances using his singing and speaking voice for many years, activities that I think could have offset some of the potentially negative effects of other therapies. Forbes gives the Tomatis Method less credit than I think it deserves and slightly misrepresents it or was misinformed by its practitioners. While the Tomatis Method only rarely is applied for long enough to heal severe integration disorder, at the very least, Chris’s exposure to that music therapy helped to repair some of the damage his ongoing use of medication surely caused to his ears.

            Forbes does not claim scientific methodology in the hero’s journey she guides. The overlapping of one therapy with another frequently confounds results. Her complete disclosure allows the reader to examine alternative therapies and to draw personal conclusions. Consistent with her transparent honesty, Forbes discusses her beliefs, her openness to alternative beliefs, and her willingness to experiment whether or not she invests belief in the therapy. Driven by hope and determination, Forbes soldiers on with admirable courage and unflagging optimism to find healing for her son. For that reason alone, anyone seeking healing for a loved one will find The Scenic Route: A Way through Madness an inspiring read

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The Tallman Paradigm, CBT, and Focused Listening Music Therapy

Here is the revolution psychology has been waiting for in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). The neurology of right-ear-driven left-brain dominance (Tallman Paradigm) that explains fundamental aspects of human behavior, whether normal or aberrant, can be corrected and fine-tuned with focused listening music therapy. This essay is directed to psychologists and other practitioners using CBT, who will find it useful to pair focused listening with their present CBT approaches.

Whether as one-on-one talking therapy, group therapy, or written materials designed to elicit written responses, CBT works with the language communications networks in the brain. Animal studies are designed to elicit physical responses rewarded by food pellets. Human studies are designed to elicit positive emotional responses to complex changes in self-destructive and socially problematical behavior. Unknown to most psychologists, psychiatrists, and physicians is the fact that human language communication networks are controlled primarily by the right ear. The new CBT tab offers a brief and simplified description of my discoveries pertaining to the etiology of normal and aberrant behavior in neurology controlled by audition.

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How to Protect Your Ears

Knowing what can harm the ear is the first step in prevention and maintaining a healthy pair of ears. Damage to the ear can come from:

1. Objects forced into the ear canal. One thinks first about children putting small objects like dried beans or parts of toys into their ears, but adults also harm themselves by trying to remove earwax with cotton-tipped sticks, hairpins, or other implements. The dangers are infection and perforation of the eardrum. While the eardrum may be repaired, the danger from infection becomes much greater. Industrial accidents, auto accidents, and warfare can produce shrapnel and glass shards that enter the ear.

2. Infections that come through the ear canal but more often migrate from the throat through the Eustachian tubes to the middle ear. Young children whose immune systems are developing may have frequent sore throats and ear infections. Medical opinion is swinging away from inserting drainage tubes in the ears as most children will grow out of this phase without that intervention. Furthermore, damage to the stapedius muscle frequently occurs as a result of this medical procedure. Infections may be bacterial, viral, or yeast and each type requires a different appropriate medicine.

3. Loud sound can harm the stapedius muscle and can harm the cilia (frequency analyzers) in the cochlea. Sources of loud sound include loud-speakers, jet engines, industrial machinery, the operatic voice, and agricultural equipment from lawnmowers and tractors to combines and fans. Wind turbines can be very dangerous as they can cause specific frequency deafness. Sound cannons, bombs, and other explosives can cause every level of deafness including permanent total hearing loss.

4. Low-frequency sound can harm the stapedius muscle and can harm the cilia in the cochlea.

5. Cold water, usually from swimming in cold water, can promote bony growths in the ear canal.

6. Chemicals, whether encountered accidentally or illicitly or through surgeries or prescriptions, can affect the muscles in the ears. Those chemicals might be inhaled, ingested, or injected. Such trauma includes carbon monoxide poisoning that deprives the ear of its oxygen supply through the blood. Many medications used to treat behavior problems cause damage to the ear muscles as well as atrophy of the skeletal muscles. Anesthetics can have a lasting effect on ear muscles. Alcohol and drug abuse harm the ears.

7. Hormones produced in the body or introduced into the body can affect the ears. For example, prednisone, a steroid hormone, affects muscle, including the tiny muscles in the ears, which accounts for many of its dangerous side effects.

8. Trauma — Surgery, such as putting in drainage tubes for children with frequent ear infections, may affect any or all parts of the ear; blows to the head can damage the outer ear, the middle ear including the stapedius muscle, and/or the inner ear. Physical trauma, such as surgery or blows to the head occurring through beating, fighting, a fall, a sporting accident, or an automobile accident, can harm the ear. Most doctors still are unaware of the effects on behaviour of damage to the ear, and will be looking primarily for skull, vision, and brain-related outcomes to head trauma. Violent motion, such as on some amusement park rides, and air pressure changes, such as during take-off and landing during air flights and that scuba divers experience, also can harm the ear.

9. Aging erodes the strength of muscles, including the muscles in the ear. Aging often includes cumulative trauma to the ears. Alzheimer’s is one of the results of such cumulative damage.

10. Oxygen deprivation, such as exposure to carbon monoxide, near drowning, a difficult birth, excessive bleeding, or even a lack of exercise can weaken the muscles of the middle ear.

MOST of the circumstances described above can be altered partially or entirely by a listening program that strengthens the stressed or damaged middle ear muscles once the assault has been withdrawn or neutralized. In a few situations, the ear muscle will have been destroyed so that music is not an effective therapy in that ear. However, the vibrations of sound that affect the entire body can help to offset the effects of sound deprivation through the ears.

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Self-control from autism to eating

Thanks for your interesting questions about the role of the ear in autism and in eating at

The question of what causes weight gains and losses is complex; the degree to which choice is involved and how choice depends on the function of the dominant ear is where my expertise comes in. I will try to respond to that range of losses of self-control that span a spectrum from autism (little or no left cerebral dominance) to people with a specific behaviour issue where they have lots of left cerebral control except where they have low dominance in one area, such as food ingestion. As you will see, the reasons for losses of control do not depend only on the ear, but it may be the deciding factor where compulsions are concerned.

First, hyperacusis can be a sign of audio-processing deficits,and is usually is a sign of stapedius muscle weakness that is failing to protect the inner ear. Your ears have lost a protective mechanism. Hyperacusis can be helped by exposing the ear to very quiet high-frequency sound and very gradually (say, over a month of daily listening) gradually working up to normal (never loud) volumes of sound.

Autism Speaks have not studied the relationship between audition and autism. They call autism a “brain disorder” (linked to the immune system possibly), which is the common medical view of schizophrenia and all other “mental” illnesses. Few medical people know about Tomatis’s discoveries, for which he was decorated by the French government. His discoveries were in the 1950s, before there was good communication across the Atlantic. His colleague, Dr. Guy Berard published in journals and also wrote a slim  book. Neither doctor understood the mechanism of cerebral dominance that I have described,  so they were missing the overarching theory that explains the changes in behaviour their treatments brought about.

Tomatis was the first to cure a group of autistic children to the point that they could leave the mental institution and attend school. But that was a partial success because he could not defend those changes scientifically and his psychiatric theories were incorrect. The parents of other school children objected to “having those crazy kids in our school” and the almost-cured autistic kids were put back in their metal-cage cribs in the insane asylum.

I am talking about people who have used ear stimulation with high-frequency sound to completely cure or to greatly improve the symptoms of autism (infantile schizophrenia) and using the same or a similar method to cure adult schizophrenia (and other behaviour problems). My book and several other books describe such cures and improvements: you can Google — Annabel Stehli, Sharon Ruben, Tomatis Method, and AIT. Some researchers are finding that AIT works better for autistics when the treatment persists for months, not weeks, as I learned with Daniel and as Sharon learned with her daughter Ashley.

Not many people have watched a schizophrenic recover to become mentally normal. I have watched my son do that partially several times under the influence of his own music-making. But I watched him fully recover twice when he used focused listening. The first time I saw that happen, I realized the Tomatis Method must be able to cure schizophrenia as well as dyslexia and chronic fatigue and autism. But how?

The next time Dan became severely schizophrenic I started him on a listening program as soon as he could sit still long enough to listen. I began to see little changes in his behaviour that reassured me the treatment was helping, as it had two years before. I began to read about neurology and the brain. I found very little information about the ear and the brain in books on neurology. I started building a library of resources on the ear and behaviour from other sources.

I had noticed several things about Dan’s cognition during psychosis. One was that his levels of cognition fluctuated rapidly: he was less insane/more insane, every two minutes, all day long.  When I saw the differing abilities of the right and left halves of the normal brain discovered by the American neurologist V.S. Ramachandran, I realized that what I had been seeing in Dan’s psychosis was a switching back and forth between left and right cerebral  hemispheres: his four-minute cycle. I could see right away that music was changing that shifting so that he was becoming more and more left-brain dominant. But only when his EAR gained normal strength could his left brain become fully dominant. At that point, he lost all of his symptoms of schizophrenia.

Sound energy integrates the two halves of the brain at the speed determined by the frequencies of sound reaching the left hemisphere. I found part of the explanation for that neurology in Tomatis’s book The Ear and the Voice.

What does all that have to do with obesity?

Music cures mental illness and dyslexia and fatigue and has cured one of the worst forms of epilepsy. But various other symptoms from digestive problems to allergies and skin disorders often disappear at the same time, indicating that the hormonal and digestive systems are affected by ear function, too. That is because a fibre of the vagus nerve is attached to the stapedius muscle in the middle ear. The vagus nerve controls the function of most of the organs of the digestive system.

People with considerable left-brain dominance still feel that tendency of the right brain to assert an interval of dominance, even if complete alternation doesn’t occur. Slight left-dominance is the condition in infancy that we gradually strengthen by teaching the left brain self-control in dozens of ways — providing the child has normal ears and can learn normally.  It is during the right-brain surge of influence that addictions form, including addictions to food, cigarettes, alcohol, etc. People with low left-brain dominance (which may be low only in regard to specific strong urges such as hunger) cannot control their urges easily during those two-minute intervals of right-brain influence.

Next, the pressure of unsatisfied urges increases the strength of the urges, eventually overwhelming the capacity of the left brain for “will power.” That “driven” behaviour reinforces the strength of the right brain’s emotional connections and further compromises the ability of the left brain to dominate the emotions and primal urges mediated in the right brain. Various ways of strengthening the left brain to break that vicious circle include cognitive behavioural training (CBT) and 12-step programs and counselling, all of which tend to ask the person to LISTEN carefully for extended periods of time, which exercises and strengthens the stapedius muscle in the dominant ear — although most doctors and laypersons are not aware of what the effort of listening accomplishes in the ears’ muscles and, hence, in the brain. However, the churches and other religious institutions are founded on that neurology of listening attentively, and usually of singing and listening to music as well.

Once the person learns how to protect and exercise the ears with music, the muscles of the middle ear remain fit (“tonic” ) because they are exercised constantly by sound in the environment that they have become more receptive to. Flexible middle ear muscles allow the person to learn to control states of consciousness (the level of integration of the cerebral hemispheres) the way normal people do. The ear is the source of ALL rational, self-controlled (i.e., successful decision-making) behaviour, which of course includes choices about the ingestion of food and drink. .

The ear-controlled cerebral integration system is what makes people capable of all other behaviour within the range of “normal.” The ear controls your ability to go to sleep, wake up, be highly attentive, daydream, meditate and  pray, perform highly creative and complex tasks, learn, recall, and so on. The ear establishes your sense of time, the logical structures of language in your left brain, the tone and pacing of your voice (emotional prosody), the co-ordination of your limbs, the function of the digestive and hormonal systems.

Sound accounts for 90% of the brain’s need for energy apart from glucose and oxygen, according to Tomatis. If people cannot access that sound energy in their environments because of weak ear muscles, they have behaviour problems that include digestive disorders etc. (remember the stapedius connection to the vagus nerve that innervates most of the digestive organs). Such people (including me) experience fatigue and seek that missing sound energy in food (glucose) because energy is a genuine and desperate need of the brain and the need for sound has not been recognized and taught (socialized) except haphazardly. Also, people with normal ears but who live in sound-deprived environments (such as monasteries or remote locations) can develop behaviour and digestive etc. problems similar to  those of people with deficient ear muscles. he brain needs sound energy to function normally and direct the body’s processes.

Many or most people do not want to be “cured” of their schizophrenia, autism, bipolarity, depression, or other forms of behaviour that deviate sharply from “norms.” That may be OK if they are cool with their environments. However, most environments are not cool with such behavioural extremes. For example, most parents don’t want their children to remain autistic if there is an alternative. Society tends not to want to have schizophrenics running out of control, especially if they have access to firearms and other weapons. Subcultures form as people with audition problems try to protect themselves from hostile main-streamers. I am against electric and chemical shock, pharmaceutical controls and other coercive treatment of mentally ill people, although for their protection and the protection of others incarceration may be necessary. However, people with such extreme behaviours might be happier with the option of listening to music that will change their behaviour than with the option of being locked into special buildings that protect the community from them and them from self-harm but without changing their behaviour.

I am not suggesting high frequency sound is a cure for obesity. I know my obesity is complicated by other factors and I am not even sure what the definition of “obesity” should be or if we should have one. But it would be interesting to know how much change might be brought about in people seeking change simply by exercising the ear Focused listening is the easiest exercise program I have ever heard about.

Thanks for listening!


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Welcome to Mental Health through Music

Lively discussions about the paradigm of mental health and mental illness proposed in our first book, Listening for the Light: A New Perspective on Hemispheric Integration, both face to face and online, have led me to open this conversation about the relationship between the ear and the brain.

The discoveries of Dr. Alfred Tomatis about the neurological relationship between the ear and the voice opened a door of new hope to those suffering audio-processing deficits that affect their behaviour. One dyslexic young man who stepped through that door was carrying some serious baggage: addictions to street drugs. His amazing recovery from dyslexic syndrome when he was treated with music by the Tomatis Method was followed by his return to substance abuse, which plunged him into psychosis and a diagnosis of hopeless schizophrenia. Yet, that young man has normal brain function today.

Over a period of 10 years I learned incrementally how to support his recovery as Daniel himself reached out again and again to music for healing. What was it that Daniel knew within himself when he said, entering a psychotic episode, “I’m dyslexic again”? Things I had noticed about his behaviour and my own research into neurology eventually showed me what Daniel knew about his interior world. That discovery led me to a new definition of the etiology of dyslexic syndrome and of schizoaffective disorders; but also to the realization that most human behaviour within the range of normal depends on the capacity of the dominant ear to maintain the dominance of one (or the other) cerebral hemispheres. Losses of dominance, whether sudden and brief, or regular and prolonged, describe a spectrum of behaviours usually called “mental” that proved, in Daniel, to originate in the ear. Stimulation of his right ear with music gradually repaired his right ear-left brain neurological connection to restore dominance and normal behaviour.

The health of the middle and inner ear is essential to normal behavior. The spectrum of human behaviour, including so-called “mental” illnesses, is generated in the ear.

I hope that by sharing our experiences of the long, difficult journey towards healing that readers of this blog will be inspired to explore the ideas here on their own paths to health through music.

Daniel’s story is available at

Laurna Tallman

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