The vibrating form of communication

The vibrating form of communication

Sound massage in the neonatal care.

By Uta Altmann, published in TAU 3/2013

“Music is first and universal language. Sounds and rhythms already surrounded the embryo, music is a medium of his earliest communication. The experience of the world of the unborn child and the infant in twilight and sleeping moments can be thought of as a vibrational experience. “(Monika Renz, 2009)

The sense of hearing, in addition to the sense of touch, is one of the earliest formed senses in the body.  In the womb one is already hearing the orientation and perception. Thus, the unborn from approximately the 22 week of pregnancy absorb the mother’s voice through the hearing. With numerous other sounds and rhythms it forms a harmonious, confidence building environment, a first form of communication. Very similar is the case with the sense of touch. Here too, the first experience of orientation is felt as vibration. In the first months after the birth the contact is essential for the children. Thus, the intensive and regular physical contact has been shown to positively affect the development of the child and the parent-child bond. Sound massage continues this development experience by vibration.

Vibrations can be visible. Everyone knows the spreading circles, which a stone thrown into the water, imprints on the surface. Becoming bigger and bigger these waves run gently onto the shore. The same can be experienced in a sound massage. The human body consists of about 70 percent water. If a singing bowl is carefully positioned on or about the body and gently touched upon, the vibration in the body spreads ever further.

The harmonic overtone rich sounds convey the feeling of confidence and security. Letting go makes easier access to resources and regeneration and revitalization can happen.

If I am called to a “sound child” in neonatology, I let myself be primarily guided by the children, their parents and my intuition. Even before I get to know a new “sound child,” the idea of sound massage is already addressed and brought closer to the parents by nurses and sometimes by physicians. With parents consent, the station then contacted me. So from the nursing staff I get up front important information about the child and his social environment.

I prefer to introduce the sound massage in premature and newborn by the kangarooing (skin-to-skin contact between parent and child), or if the child has recovered, in his parents arms.

For the child feeling, smell and voice / vibration of his parents is felt as a part of a familiar environment. In this small, sheltered island, surrounded by all the technical equipment, countless sounds and movements in the room, I start to gently sound the first singing bowl. The sounds and vibrations spread very quietly, and yet it is often recognized by the children. As an unconscious memory of the familiar sound space in the womb.
I use several, different-sounding singing bowls for most premature infants and neonates.
So I set up the bowls around the child, partially also on the child (if it already knows the sound massage) and use the parent as a resonance chamber, by asking them to place a bowl on the knees or feet. Thus, parents together with their child are connected in the sound space.
Here, I can describe many different perceptions and observations. From a medical point of view often a slowing of cardiac- respiratory- frequency is observed on the monitor, again and again stabilising the still very sensitive vital signs.
The children themselves vary from deep relaxation with content sleep, through to waking, an interested, sometimes astonished look around in all reactions. The parent finds rest in spite of the unaltered ambient environment, the “non- thinking” and the deep attachment to her child. These are the “goose bumps moments” for me when the children and parents are borne by the sounds. If they come to resonate mutually and in a deep connection. This work sensitised them to the little nuances, to the watch and feel. There are different ideas as to when a child should receive a sound massage. Often there are children who “do their thing quite well,” with the a small boost of sounds should get better drinking, less bellyache, quieter sleep stages etc.. The restorative connection between parent and child should be supported with sound massage.

In principle I’m working resource-oriented, and aim to help children arriving in the world, with the sounds. The feedback I receive from carers that children are happier / more relaxed, have longer sleep stages, drink better, require less oxygen, are attentive etc. confirm me in this wonderful work.

So this closes the circle for me, because the use of sound for healing purposes dates back to thousands of years. Melody and rhythm are stored in our body cells as old knowledge. In premature infants and newborns and old, mostly demented patients where alternative forms of communication are necessary, sound can build and create a connection to this ancient knowledge – in a vibratory form of communication.

I warmly thank specialist pediatric nurse Silke Steens, whose idea was to bring the sounds to the children. Great thanks to the nursing team of the station 44/34 (Neonatology) for their support, their open arms for the integration of sounds on the station as well as the chief doctor of Neonatology Dr. Ulrich Flotmann for his confidence in my work.

Renz, Monika (2009): Between primal and basic trust. Paderborn: Junfermann publisher.
Hess, Peter and Koller, Christina (2009): Sound methods in therapeutic practice. Uenzen: Publishing Peter Hess.
Hess, Peter and Koller, Christiana (2007): Sound experience to work professionally with sound. Uenzen: Publishing Peter Hess.

Uta Altmann
Uta Altmann

Author: Uta Altmann is a nurse at St. Francis Hospital in Münster trained in the Sound Massage according to Peter Hess, relaxation therapist with training in integrative body work.

© Translation and editting: Alex Andrzejewski

Peter Hess Sound Massage as a complementary method in Therapeutic practice

Peter Hess Sound Massage as a complementary method in Therapeutic practice

Dr. Christina M. Koller


Peter Hess Sound Massage in therapeutic practice
Peter Hess Sound Massage

More and more specialists of therapeutic professional fields are inspired by sound massage, originally developed by Peter Hess as a holistic relaxation method, because the relaxing and stress reducing effect of the harmonious sounds and gentle sound vibrations may excellently supplement and accompany conventional therapeutic and medical interventions. The DVD “Peter Hess-Klangmassage als komplementare Methoden in der therapeutischen Praxis” (Peter Hess Sound Massage as complementary Methods in therapeutic Practice) provides manifold insights into this. In this presentation, three of the six articles in total of this DVD describe fields of application in clinics.


Dr. Glockner, leading Senior Physician of the geronto-psychiatric department at the AWO specialist hospital Jerichow (near Berlin), was inspired by sound massage when she got to know it for the first time. Dr. Glockner and other employees of care and social services as well as the team of therapists, doctors and psychologists have been since integrating sound massage as a concomitant therapy in parallel with medicinal treatment.  Many patients of the hospital’s psychiatry and psychotherapy, psychosomatic medicine,neurology and special pain therapy are highly stressed, feel under pressure and are often hardly capable of perceiving their body. Therefore, the rapid and deep relaxation achieved comparably easily in sound treatment is an ideal basis which can be applied in preparing or accompanying therapy. Moreover, sound bowls are an excellent medium for supporting body perception and enabling communication without words. A “touch without touching”, which may enormously facilitate the contact between professional and a patient, is possible. So people, suffering from dementia for example, react very positively to the sound which usually induce feelings of confidence, security and safety. It is not surprising therefore, that good results are also obtained in case of fears, slight restlessness or sleep disorders. The medical director Prof. Joachim Muller, who is open for new treatment methods and has enabled the in-house training for his employees, reports that this body-oriented method is also enjoyable to those applying it. This substantiates the preventive character of sound massage because therapists always benefit themselves from the pleasant sounds of sound bowls.

Employees of the hospital “Klinik am Park” in Lunen, one of the three locations of the Klinikum Westfalen (Clinical Centre Westphalia) have gained similarly positive experience. The manager Christian Scholz accentuates the personal atmosphere of the clinic which becomes noticeable both between employees as well as between employees and patients. Sound massage is applied in many fields here, be it in pain therapy, surgical preparation, in surgery after fractures or also in employees’ health prevention.

At the beginning, the aim of Mr. Scholz in introducing the sound massage in pain therapy was less a therapeutic benefit but rather a suggestion patients would feel comfortable with, after which they could say “That was a great thing for me, that helped me, I can really recommend this (and the clinic)”. And exactly this is the feedback the management receives again and again in the form of long laudatory letters with regard to the sound treatment. In effect, also senior consultants became attentive thereof and the sound offer was expanded to further fields. This includes, for example, the project “Pain-less surgery” under the leadership of Dr. Sauer, Senior Consultant for Anaesthesia. Within this project, various procedures are offered to the patient intending to take their mind off during waiting for the appointment and to calm them down. From the very first, the feedback on sound massage was very positive such as “The sound has calmed me down”; “l am feeling somewhat relieved”, “I was positively surprised how sound and also vibration enter into the body, this has calmed me down”.

And what is good for the patient surely does not do any harm to the employees either. So regularly after work they meet for sound mediation or mutual sound massage. Peter, working in the field of surgical management, pain therapy and internal training, calls this “a little piece of luck during work”.

For two years, the pleasant effect of the sound of sound bowls has also been applied at the Arcadia Clinic for cancer therapy and integrative medicine at the health centre Bad Emstal in addition to meditation and relaxation exercises as well as special therapies. Dr. Christian Buttner, one of the senior physicians, reports how sound massages are used for example for the preparation and support of whole-body hyperthermia. Kirsten Knopfel-Rahmann one of the attending nurses and trained Peter Hess sound massage practitioner, shows how using sounds she gets patients in the mood for this fever therapy. Her aim is to calm down the patient, to relax the body and to encourage the patient to perceive their body. The treatment may be unpleasant for patients and in some induces fear or aggression. Sounds provide an acceptable remedy here and help patients to better cope with the situation and to be in control of oneself.


Within the framework of various relaxation offers, sound massage represents an opportunity for many patients to once again after a long time experience their body as a pleasant place. Patients frequently experience that they are capable of lying for a longer time without having pain. Many patients are thankful for not having to undress when applying this treatment, not having to show their scarred body and not having to remove their wig either. The disease, frequently dominating the entire daily routine, fades into the background for the duration of the sound session. During this time, finally the disease is no longer a central point, but the patients themselves as human beings, feeling comfortable in their body, making them feel: I am able to relax.

©2016 translation and editting Maranta Sound Academy

©2010 Peter Hess Institute


Sound massage vs meditation in stress relief

Sound massage vs meditation in stress relief

by Alex Andrzejewski

Stress is a well known problem of today’s world.  It has been proven to cause a variety of disorders and diseases, both physical and mental, and it affects people from all walks of life.  Everyone experiences stress in it’s various forms, and some of us even suffer the consequences of a long term stressful environment in our lives.

It is said that the individual response to stress varies due to a person’s own resources and ways of coping with stress.


Some theorists now refer to the healthy state as one of stability in the face of change.  Multiple causes of stress add to what is called allostatic loading, which can be pathologic if not relieved.(1)


Once the individual is subjected to long term stress, his or her resources are depleted, and the response to stressful stimuli may be disproportionately pronounced.

It is also said that various relaxation techniques play a large role in regeneration of our resources; and relaxation techniques, as a remedy for stress, is one of the most researched subjects.  Two of the most commonly recommended relaxation methods are yoga and meditation.  Also, various techniques using sound are starting to play a bigger role in stress relief – in particular, sound massage.


What is a sound massage?

Peter Hess Sound Massage, relaxation, meditation, stress relief
Peter Hess Sound Massage

The phrase was coined by the German engineering graduate Peter Hess, in the eighties, after he discovered and further developed the technique. (2)

Sound massage consists of placing the sound (singing) bowls on or around the body and gently striking them to create sound and vibration.  Multi-tonal sound envelops the client and practitioner, creating a relaxing and safe environment.  At the same time, the gentle vibrations of the sound bowl extend to all parts of the body, consequently massaging every cell, tissue and organ on the deepest level.

The client is a passive receiver of this treatment; however, the effect is profound in all aspects of body and mind.  Due to the soft nature of sound vibrations, the body receives them as a gentle, balmy breeze.  All body tissues vibrate, making detoxification, tissue repair and healing easier.(3)


This [vibration] causes a tone regulation of () muscle, slightly promoting blood circulation, thus enhancing the metabolism.(4)


The effects of this treatment on the mind are even more pronounced.  To explain those, I need to throw a little light on the nature of the sounds emitted by sound (singing) bowls.

According to researchers, “…the singing bowls emit complex non-harmonic multi- tonal sounds with components gathering in the characteristic groups producing binaural beats at frequencies placed mainly below the acoustic zone of [the] mechanical resonance band of the human organs as well as alpha and theta brain frequencies.” (5)  Which means that the sound (singing) bowls produce a combination of sounds with some below human hearing range, matching brain waves found in relaxation and sleep modes (alpha and theta waves), thus physically producing a relaxation effect.  And as a research study by K. Gommel showed, the effects of relaxation (prevalence of alpha waves in ECG scans) are long lasting. (6)

This effect is produced automatically on the physical level, and the receiver does not need to learn a process or technique to take full advantage of this relaxing influence.  Better still, because the sound of the bowls so quickly and inadvertently create the state of relaxation, a person living with stress can experience and learn a stress free condition during sound massage.

Meditation, in comparison, is an active relaxation.  Even though the object of meditation is to be silent and find inner peace and stillness, a certain amount of training is required to achieve such states.


Meditation is a practice in which an individual trains the mind or induces a mode of consciousness, either to bring about some benefit or as and end in itself.(7)


Although there is no doubt that meditation is an exceptional remedy to stress, it also requires a certain level of ability to practice.  And although it is available to all people, there are those who claim,for one reason or another, to be unable to meditate.  Often, those are people who are so stressed, that their mind is in constant activity.  They find it very difficult to concentrate their thoughts on one subject, and every time they try to meditate, they either fall asleep or start thinking about their daily problems.  These individuals have a feeling of failure after the attempted meditation session.  They may try a few times, then unfortunately never come back to the practice.

Singing bowls, sound massage, relaxation, meditation, stress relief
Singing bowls

The benefits of sound with meditation have been known for many centuries and it has been used in various settings where chanting, singing and sounds of instruments helped to induce meditative states.  Sound massage is a modern version of this ancient knowledge.”

So, to bring those who are unable to succeed right away to the practice of meditation, it could help to start with the practice of sound massage, with the purpose of relieving the most severe aspects of stress.  After several sessions, depending on the severity of the stress reactions, it would be easier for the individual to relax, and in consequence, learn meditation.

As is done in the best traditions of holistic healing, we connect all aspects of body and mind through sound and meditation.



1. Sound Therapy Induced Relaxation: Down Regulating Stress Processes and Pathologies, Elliott Salamon, and Minsun Kim, John Beaulieu, and George B. Stefano.


3. Cell and sound. M. Pabst Journal of European Association for Sound Massage Therapy 9/2010

4. Beneficial Sound Massage. Ch. Koller PhD, Journal of European Association for Sound Massage Therapy

5. The acoustic field of the singing bowls – method of visualisation. A. Meyer, H. Portalska, M. Portalski, A. Konieczka and J. Balcerek. “Elektronika” 3/2009

6. The neural effects of Peter Hess ® sound massage, Dr Kerstin Gommel PhD

7. Wikipedia


©2014Maranta Sound Academy

Touch accompanied by sound – sound experience for people suffering from dementia

Touch accompanied by sound – sound experience for people suffering from dementia

by Sabine Bilnik-Clauss

Sabine Bilnik-Clauss
Sabine Bilnik-Clauss

 Sabine Bilnik-Clauss

Born 1960, a social worker and a registered nurse. She has trained in the Peter Hess-sound massage, relaxation therapies (BTB) and aroma care, among others.

She has overseen various management activities in the field of nursing homes and is now a lecturer at the Niederrhein University / Department of Social Work. Since 2000 she is self-employed within the areas of consulting, seminars, lectures and moderation in all aspects of work with the elderly people. Sabine provides consulting, projects and seminars in your own premises with the topics of dementia, sound and other relaxation methods.

For those concerned with the effects of Dementia, it is of utmost importance to understand the use of singing bowls on people with this disease.

Dementia – circumstances of those affected and impact of the disease

The term “dementia” does not refer to a specific disease, but a wide range of symptoms. The broad category of dementia includes many diseases with the characteristic defects of the brain performance. It is a loss of mental ability, that is, memory and thinking disorders. The advance of the disease exacerbates symptoms, so that all normal activities of everyday life are affected.

The affected people are suffering from a progressive loss of memory. Something “just said” is immediately forgotten, as they can’t save any new information in their short-term memory. Also a long-term memory is affected by forgetting. There are problems in thinking and limitations of judgment, speech disturbances and cognitive uncertainties, for example in the use of everyday life objects.


The stages of dementia

To give the reader an idea of the disease progression and the escalation of symptoms, I briefly described the stages of dementia below.

Mild forgetfulness is in the foreground of the early stages of dementia. Affected people noted that, many times and over a long period, they postponed things repeatedly, they often seek for words in conversation, their concentration diminishes and they increasingly find themselves in an unfamiliar surroundings and can no longer find their way. This slowdown in orientation and feeling of performance degradation result in amplified uncertainty, hectic and anxious behaviour in everyday life.

The person concerned rather goes out of his way to withdraw from an unfamiliar or complex situations. The mood is rather anxious, depressed but also irritated or angry. At this stage the disease often result in the person mislaying important objects and thus accuse others of, for example, having taken this object.

The middle stage with moderate impairments, e.g. the lack memory retention is characterised by temporal and spatial disorientation. But the language ability distinctly varies. The ill person always loses the real issue in conversation and may not finish his sentences. The sentence structure is no longer maintained and little by little the concentration is lost. Gradually, the social ability to start a conversation would deteriorate and contacts with the environment are going to be more and more difficult.

This results in a retreat into a different periods of life (past), stored in the long-term memory in attempt to achieve security in the situation of forgetting the present. Restlessness and need to move and search for security very clearly describe the image of this stage and the situation of the individual. In addition, hallucinations, a disturbed circadian rhythm and a frequent change of mood occur.

A severe dementia at an advanced stage with a very extensive and physical impairments fundamentally changes daily lives of those affected. Due to the disturbances in coordination, gross and fine motor skills and balance, the sufferers are increasingly dependent on help and support of others. Unsteady gait, often stooped posture and ever increasing restriction of total mobility for the most part impede the independent living. The control of bladder and bowel movements no longer exists and the communication on a verbal level is almost impossible. Delusions and hallucinations can be mutually reinforcing, but also a retreat into their own inner world, so apathy or apparent apathy can be observed.

In addition to a more and more restricted physical situation, eating and swallowing difficulties come and that leads to the complete dependence on care of others.

Access routes to dementia affected people, one might perhaps think, can’t be achieved as the person ill with advanced stage dementia no longer or only little perceives their surroundings.

Dementia - sound massage
Dementia – sound massage

Everyone has different levels of strengths and abilities. We do not always need all of this capacity, but in the situation of people affected by dementia, here lie an unfamiliar and unusual potential to remain in contact with their environment.

Habits, routine actions, rituals, humour, but also understanding of the music and always at least parts of the long-term memory are some of the attainable accessibility options.

The sensory awareness opens up world of the senses. For through seeing, hearing, smell, taste and touch, we understand what is happening around us and can react to it. At this level, in all life situations until death, people need stimulation to perceive their surroundings. Inspiring a more pleasant sensations can therefore lead to greater alertness and increased responses to the direct living environment. It promotes personal contact, thus leading to a “significant” communication.

The emotional memory stores the feelings that connect us to an experience. This responsiveness to the emotional level is always open and creates a direct access to people suffering from dementia. I guide them with those positive memories into the most serene environment possible.

The atmosphere in which the individual lives, is one of the main ways to support and give a protected space for these positive feelings, as well as strong emotions such as rage and anger. To promote peace and relaxation and to incorporate appropriate opportunities into everyday life, are the important tasks in car

Perhaps the memory of the respective event is no longer comprehensible and can no longer be verbalised, but the feelings that were associated with it, are always noticeable to the sufferers.

So emotional memory plays an important, perhaps the most important role in the experience of the person concerned and his attendants.

Sound massage as a sound-relaxation with people suffering from dementia

Why can the sound-relaxation be effective and supportive for people with forms of dementia?

As described, those affected by the change in their symptoms are always on the lookout for something familiar, something that gives them a break in their state of forgetting, that is safety, security and basic trust.

Since sounds act on the whole body, it can favourably influence an imbalance on the increasingly important emotional level. In sound experience, no cognitive performance is expected, not thinking but the Feel is at the forefront and thus enhances the self-esteem of sufferers.

Unlike other methods of relaxation, the simplicity of the sound range does not overpower the sufferers. Often this needs linguistic guidance implemented (for example, Progressive muscle relaxation according to Jacobson) and a separate “training” to be practiced over a certain period. It shows him his existing capabilities and facilities in his own world, in a part of their own personal history. Sound accompanied us from the beginning of humanity. Early prenatal memories of sound, for example, the voice of our mother, but also oscillation and vibration are the feelings familiar to us. They can be felt at all levels and reach somewhere those affected for sure.

Based on the reactions during and after a sound-relaxation, mostly non-verbal, for example, through facial expressions, changes in breathing or muscle tone, an often very clear communication can be achieved. In this way we do not lose direct contact and remain so in a harmonious connection, ever with more extensive impairments as the disease progresses.

Encounter the sound, once carefully perceive it with all your senses, hear and feel, even without direct physical contact. The bowls  can be arranged around the bed or wheelchair. They can be used on the sound massage also as “musical” support. Experience with sounds music. Are reminiscent of the origin, the basic trust a meaningful supply and slow to adapt to a very unusual offer.

In order not only to take into account the spiritual but also the physical abilities, Peter Hess® therapy singing bowls are not put on like the classic sound massage on the body, but positioned close to the body. This allows for an intensive emanation of the oscillations of the bowls placed on on the bedspread, the positioning pillows, a rug or a small cushion in the wheelchair. The sound offering can be done with the universal bowl, but also with the additional small pelvis bowl or completed still with the supplementary heart bowl.

To strike the singing bowls very carefully and gently, because the effect can be felt more than heard. The waves of sound are sent through the body gently massaging and are perceived by the patients at all levels. The result is again ‘order’ and inner balance.

The position of Peter Hess® therapy bowls is chosen based on the classic Peter Hess-sound massage.

Starting with the joint, or universal bowl at the foot, the small pelvis bowl in the area of the buttocks to the chest area. It is important in this case also, if possible, both sides of the body to beklangen. Even though the heart bowl is used, this should rather far from the body may be placed in the shoulder head area on a small table or shelf. Here I was always observe for a sensitivity into the acoustic perception of “high” tones into the vicinity of the ears.

In the seated position, the (universal)joint bowl is placed at the feet on the floor and tried the small pelvis bowl on a pillow or a folded blanket on the thighs. At the head and shoulder area, the heart bowl can, set by the side or around the wheelchair, be used continually.

After a sound-relaxation the sufferers should also have time to consider. The important thing is to observe for a while to perceive any reaction of relaxation. This is done via the communication by the breathing, muscle tone and nature of changes in the skin. Sound relaxation can also activate, excite, make the new order conscious. Often the effect depends on the starting state, rather sleepy, introverted or restless with strong urge to move.


From practice:

Project “Touching support” – contact for people with severe dementia

To be able to undergo the described hereinafter experience in working with sound, requires the potential of an intense and understanding cooperation.

The project “Touching support” exists since the fall of 2007 in the Joachim-Neander—House in Diakonie in Dusseldorf / Benrath. It is designed for people with severe dementia at an advanced stage and is regularly offered by me as an external associate. It’s an individual support, linked to the biography of each resident. Focus of those sessions through variety of impulses through whichever medium, is to stimulate senses and promote relaxation and well-being.

I would like to describe some encounters with residents as part of this project, in which sound is used as a supporting element for relaxation and wellbeing.


Dementia - sound massage
Dementia – sound massage

Meeting with Mrs. D.

I meet Mrs D. today. She was lying on her side in the bed of her hospital room. She opened her eyes and looked at among others, pictures on the wall and the wallpaper. I can contact her by softly speaking, initial contact on the right shoulder and direct eye contact. She seemed to recognise the situation and moved her mouth into a smile.

Mrs. D. is permanently bedridden and very limited in her communication options. Her body builds great tension. Her arms are bent, her fists clenched, her back hard and  palpable with tension, the head often shows a slight hyperextension. The sound-relaxation leaves Mrs. D. in an obvious state of relaxation and wellbeing.

The gentle, but rhythmic decline of the singing bowls sound in the proximity of the feet and on both sides of her body around hip and heart area (wherever the placement is possible) firstly causes a basic relaxation and promotes a peaceful atmosphere of contact. The primary focus of this session is a touch by bodily contact, but also a touch by the sound.

In particular, touch by the hands, leaves Mrs D with noticeably less tension during the sound. The steady sound of the singing bowls carry on the sense of safety and security. This also is gradually noticeable to Mrs. D. and changes the overall impression of her situation. A deepened breathing also release tension from other areas of the body, e.g. the back becomes softer. Mrs. D. may allow more and more direct physical touch and indicate through her facial expression, especially around the mouth, well-being, tranquility, but also an active interest in her surroundings.

With the end of the sound-relaxation I stay in physical contact for a little while, holding her hands, soft now, gently stretching previously clenched palms, rubbing carefully with calm movements. This part of the session can also be supported by a quiet, relaxing background music and I can say goodbye until next time.

Mrs. D. is very relaxed, her eyes closed, breathing quietly, her face is soft and her mouth opens a little. The hands and fingers are loose and spread out or under her blanket and a smile can be seen on her face.


Another meeting with Mrs M.

Mrs. M. can spend a few hours of her day in a wheelchair. I pick her up at her table and go with her to a quieter lounge area. We sat together here a few times already and I can put a chair opposite. I brought for her a Universal bowl and three Bengali singing bowls (triad).

Mrs. M. is at a stage of the illness where she experiences a lot of self-motion. Her body as a whole, but above all hands and arms, always appear to move. This hardly leaves time to pause and strongly affects her facial expressions. Her eyes are wide open and she verbalises through silent, but in a response often, a louder groan.

Even today, she is restless and movements, mainly of the right arm, take all her attention. I touch her hands and she holds them fixed for a moment. I try to establish a direct contact with the eyes and to approach her with my face. She comes towards me very close and puts her cheek against mine. Her arms and hands are on my shoulders and I can pause  for a moment.

Dementia - sound massage
Dementia – sound massage

She then leans back in her wheelchair, closes her eyes and her arms and hands are placed on the armrests. I now put a small pillow on her knees and thighs and offer her the sound of the Universal bowl.

The movements of the arms continue, but slowly, with pauses, stop and she briefly closes her eyes. The gentle decline of the singing bowls sound has also a calming effect on her trembling legs. More and more she comes to the rest, her face looks relaxed and she verbalises quietly. Her breathing deepened and she may sit back and  relax even longer. Her hands encircle the singing bowl so she can also experience direct physical contact through sound.

Also with Mrs. M., after the end of the sound session, I stay a short time in order to support the effect of the relaxation. The decline of the Bengali singing bowls on the table is this sessions finishing touch and again leads to a relaxed and musical sound experience.


Meeting with Mrs S.

I also meet Mrs. S. in her room. She is completely bedridden and lies on her back in a slightly elevation position. The head is a little overstretched and she looks at the ceiling. Colourful ribbons or the image of a coloured light projector stimulate her visual senses. Her arms are bent and her hands constantly in motion – fast and restless. She fixed on me for a brief period of quiet speech and initial touch on her right shoulder.

Here, I have option to use all three Peter Hess® Therapy Singing Bowls. The (universal)joint bowl at the foot and pelvis bowl at hip and rib cage are supported in their position by a small positioning cushions. I place the small heart bowl at the shoulder/head height on the bedside table or a shelf.

Dementia - sound massage
Dementia – sound massage

A basic relaxation is achieved after the first sounds and Mrs. S. pays attention to the sounds and vibrations. She looks around, her hands stop and it seems as if they want to adjust the rhythm of the sounding.

As I begin first on her feet, it takes some time, until all three bowls resonate in succession. Now Mrs. S. is watching quietly. Her hands are soft, the arms loose, their movements continue. She reached with her hand to her forehead and then re-connect both hands at the level of her sternum. Her breathing is deep and I can now touch her forehead, hold my hand quietly and stroke from the eyebrows to above her hairline. Mrs. S. enjoys this contact and can also close her eyes. This mood holds on for a while until the bowls are all faded away again. She is relaxes, the face is softened (her forehead smooth, her eyes closed, her mouth slightly open) and she breathes again from the very deep.



The encounters in this project do not only affect the sufferers themselves. I always experience a very strong sense of connectedness in a sound-relaxation. The communication on an emotional level through sound helps to maintain contact with each other.

Colleagues in the field of nursing repeatedly confirm long-lasting periods of relaxation that they can observe with the residents following the sound sessions. It brings a positive change in many areas of care, e.g. it facilitates the regular break for partially bedridden sufferers, which can make life more gentle and enjoyable for the sick person.

Also, the feedback of the relatives who temporarily are able to observe the session or be integrated on request, is very positive. To experience the sufferer in the relaxed state, or themselves make contact intensified through sound, is often a new, but important experience. Often at a time of “voicelessness”, allows to reach those affected even closer and more intensely where they can stay in touch, without language, at the level of tangible emotions.

However, the experiences described presuppose also to have dealt with the life story (biography work) of the patient and thus be able to build on positive events.


The importance of sound experience in people with forms of dementia • • •

  • Sound may touch – it is a companion, also in difficult life situations.
  • Sound reaches the people on the level, which is always open for a direct contact with its environment.
  • Sound is a more mindful way, especially in the described situation with people suffering form brain disorders. Be mindful of yourself, be mindful of others, do not overwhelm, have no expectations, have no right to the outcome, let it happen and enjoy the incoming diversion.

The sessions described above make these principles clear. The objectives; an improvement of the general condition, visible well-being, safety, joy and connecting with each other, are usually achieved in a short time.

The different life and illness circumstances always indicate the direction. The dementia patient is directing – to recognise those signals and to provide a customised session for this moment, requires a great deal of empathy, but also a wealth of experience with other relaxation techniques, media and methods to promote awareness and a sense of relaxing atmosphere.

Dealing precisely with the diseases and their different symptoms, but also being able to evaluate nursing situations allows the sound-relaxation session to be a positive experience for the person concerned.

The emotional memory will let such positive feelings be felt always at every sound, because we remain receptive to feelings till the end of life, and thus through sound we always remain connected.

©Translation and edit: Alex Andrzejewski (Maranta Sound Academy)

© 2010Peter Hess institute