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Alfred A. Tomatis

Who was Professor Tomatis?

Alfred A. Tomatis, French ENT specialist and professor of linguistics, was born in Nice, on January 1st, 1920 and died in Carcassonne, on 25 December 2001. Tomatis was a visionary scientist. He conducted experimental research into the connection between hearing, the psyche, the brain, the voice and the body. He even developed a new branch of science, called Audio-Psycho-Phonology. The son of an opera singer, Tomatis was fascinated early on by everything to do with the voice and the ear. According to Tomatis, it's not just the function of hearing, but more precisely the act of listening, that is the basis for communication with oneself and others. He pioneered auditory brain stimulation, which can be used for a wide range of problems originating in the brain, nervous system, body, and/or psyche. Tomatis' assertion that the mother’s state of mind during pregnancy, as well as her voice, which reflects this state of mind, greatly influence the child's development in the womb.

Meeting Alfred Tomatis

Recalling the first time he met ENT Professor Alfred Tomatis in his Paris office in 1972, two images come to Jozef Vervoort's mind: that of an ascetic, radiant fifty-year-young man, wrapped in his own aura, and the other of the awe-inspiring knowledge coming from a man who, from two lines on a sheet of paper - one blue, one red - could deduce so much about a person and their state of mind. 

In late December 1972, the Vervoort family traveled to Paris, France, with their young son who was suffering from developmental delay due to oxygen starvation at birth. The boy, his father and his mother all had to pass a listening test. The boy’s treatment began on 26 December 1972 and resumed during the Easter and Summer holidays of 1973. At that time, Professor Tomatis ran his own institute, wrote books and continued his research on the ear and the voice. He also built new devices and informally taught interested doctors, therapists and educators the principles of audio-psycho-phonology, a method he founded himself. Once Tomatis was certain that they had acquired enough knowledge, he gave them the green light to practice the method as APP therapists.

Up until 1976, and long before Tomatis resigned from the French Order of Physicians, in anticipation of his imminent dismissal, audio-psycho-phonology could only be practiced under medical supervision. His colleagues thought he had done too much publicity around his method, and advertising was, and still is today, forbidden to doctors. The same year, Tomatis watched his colleagues, and even a former employee, develop a new, cheaper device based on the (unpatented) Electronic Ear. The 'coup de grace' was given at a conference in Antwerp, which took place without Tomatis, during which a new group was created - a group that only existed for two years.

About 15 devotees remained loyal to Professor Tomatis. Among them, a university in Toronto, Canada, which, in subsequent years, would come up with financial resources to further develop APP. During his time in North America the French pioneer would discover the importance of bone conduction and precession, and develop new settings and filters for his new version of the Electronic Ear.

In 1982, the remaining faithful met in Paris with the leaders of the new centres. They got a glance at Tomatis' research results and at the new devices. Since then, many centers have emerged around the world and the number of followers of his method has continued to grow. Until 1996, Tomatis continued to share his knowledge at conferences, seminars and refresher courses.

In 1996, at the age of 76, Tomatis slowly retired from working life. His declining health prompted him to seek a successor. The "dream candidate", Jozef Vervoort, from Belgium, initially refused his offer; as the head of four primary schools in Saint-Trond, his plate was more than full. Finally, in 1999, a redeeming "yes" arrived from Belgium. At the beginning of 2001, the scientist donated to Vervoort all the writings from his long and fruitful life as a researcher. Unfortunately, Alfred Angel Tomatis was never able to attend the inauguration of a museum that took place in Sint-Truiden in the Summer of 2002. He died on 25 December 2001 in his home in Carcassonne.

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