The most obvious way in which human beings perceive sound is through the organs of the ears. The ear drum is a specialised membrane which vibrates with the input of sound waves, or pressure. These are then translated into electrical impulses. These are then sent to the brain, which interprets the sounds and then informs our reaction to it. The whole of the ear is involved in our receiving of sounds, from the outer ear, or pinna, to the inner ear canal. The middle ear contains three very small bones that are responsible for transferring the sounds into the inner ear and thence to the brain.
The malleus is the first of these small bones, which touches the ear drum and then transfers the vibration to the anvil. The last bone is the stirrup and this tiny bone transfers the vibration to the cochlea, which is a liquid filled organ that transforms vibration into electrical energy. The cochlea is divided by a membrane that has many tiny hairs. When moved these hairs send signals to the cranial nerve and then the brain. These impulses, when interpreted by our brain, lead to hearing.
How Else Do We Perceive Sound?
The whole process is truly remarkable, and yet it is still not the whole story. Many members of the animal kingdom perceive sound through other sensory organs, and human beings are no different. Even those who are born profoundly deaf can interpret sound, but in this instance as a vibration. For example, if we feel the vibration through our feet we are able to dance to the rhythm of music regardless of whether we can hear it or not.
The vibrations created by a multitude of different pitches and tones of sound are what makes healing with sound so effective and powerful. The whole body responds to these sound waves, not just the ear and the brain, and this can lead to some very profound changes within our bodies and emotions as the existing patterns are shaken loose by the passage of sound through different areas of our bodies.
Think about the shape of the human ear. What does it remind you of? A kidney perhaps? In Traditional Chinese Medicine the kidneys are seen as vitally important organs in maintaining our health and energy levels, equally as important as the circulatory system. Other people may well be put in mind of the shape of a foetus in the womb, making us think about how we grow and develop from a cluster of cells into the miracle of moving parts that is the human body.
The therapeutic effects of sound vibrations on our emotions is equally awe-inspiring. Consider the phenomenon of synchronisation that we see in a crowd of football fans when they sing their team anthem. Nobody is choreographing or directing them and yet, after a few bars, the majority are singing in harmony.
In the same way, sound can be used to make changes in the body; the body can entrain itself to the sound being played. Imagine walking to the beat of a drum. With a steady beat being played, most people will walk in time with the drum beats. Adding more emphasis to the first beat of every four will cause those same people to almost stomp on that beat. If instead, the rhythm is changed to a three beat rhythm, it becomes almost impossible to continue walking in the same way and people begin to walk in a more fluid way. Drumming and tuning fork therapy work in this way, albeit to a deeper level.