I often talk about the acoustic reflex and how that muscle’s reflex is so very important to have tested to determine if it functions well for the child with sensory processing challenges. Within The Davis Model of Sound Intervention™, the response of this muscle reflex can be retrained to support better hearing sensitivity, which addresses the Roots System of The Tree of Sound Enhancement Therapy®.
Well, in addition to this muscle reflex, three additional neuro-reflexes can affect ‘hearing’. While the literature available on these reflexes often talk about the responses as they relate to hearing aid usage or while examining the ear, it may be also important to connect these same reflexes to the processes that I discuss in The Davis Model of Sound Intervention, where I look at the ear not only as a hearing mechanism but as our body’s global sensory processor.
Let’s look at what these neuro-reflexes are. First, they are a part of our body’s natural defense system—our way to defend ourselves against unwanted agents, similarly to what the acoustic reflex provides for us when working properly.
Secondly, they occur and react as follows:
- Vagus Reflex—occurs when something is inserted or poked into the ear canal. The human response is coughing, gagging, watering of the eyes, and sometimes pain.
- Trigeminal Reflex—occurs when we block off the ear canal with plugs. The human response is a thickening of the eardrum or a redness of the eardrum.
- Lymphatic Reflex—occurs after an ear plug is left in for a long period of time. The human response is a soreness or swelling of the ear canal.
For the child with Sensory Processing Disorder or challenges, any or all of these responses can trigger a cyclical response throughout the body and has been reported in my clients lasting sometimes for days after testing. They are also noticed sometimes when therapy starts and progress is noted as the symptoms decrease.
When you match these reflexes to the sound stimulation via the branching effects of the nervous system through the ear, the Vagus and Trigeminal nerves are two of the four that I discuss as important to stimulate with sound in order to balance our body’s response to sound in general. The sound-based therapies when used in the appropriate sequence definitely help to balance these nerves and although not yet researched, I would assume these reflexes as well, because my clients report decreases in coughing, gagging, watering of the eyes and soreness in the ears after the sound-based therapy sequence as determined from the Diagnostic Evaluation for Therapy Protocol (DETP®)