Sound for deaf-blind people and people with hearing disability

Report of a five-day project.

by Jasmin Worseg


The Sound and Sound Massage was available for the first time  at a Rehabilitation Week, held in April 2010 by the “Hearing-impaired, Deaf-blind, Blind and Visually Impaired Association NRW e.V.” in Bad Meinberg (Germany). For five days spa guests could experience the effects of sound.

During the project not only participants experienced their first contact, also our team consisting of three qualified professionals with different backgrounds and field of activity, had previously had no experience with deaf-blind people. So the project was a challenge for all involved.


Background of the participants

Conditions of the participants were varied, ranging from mild visually or hearing impaired to complete loss of one or both senses. Usher syndrome was the cause of a severe restriction or complete loss of hearing and eyesight in approximately every second case. This is a genetically inherited defect which shows itself in childhood. Progression and severity vary widely: as an exemplary case of the disease does not exist.So far, no causal treatment of Usher syndrome is possible. In certain cases, a hearing implant contribute to improving the situation. Also additional therapeutic services are important.

In case of the loss of both senses the person concerned is either strongly cut off from his or her environment, or the contact with the environment is much more difficult, resulting frequently in social withdrawal and depression. Equally important psychological effects are the mourning for loss or fears of the future. Sufferers are dependent on constant care and family members in turn often become overloaded. Dependency, under or over-exposure are therefore everyday common problems of deaf-blind people.


Structure and Objectives

It was important to us to deliver a targeted proposition , even if it was a first contact with the Sound for the spa centre guests.

Earlier on, a thorough discussion with the organisers of spa week took place and the following key objectives were formulated:

  • Improvement of self-perception
  • Improvement of body image. When the two senses are missing, it is important that physical resources are used to the best advantage. It requires, as a first step, a conscious perception of individual physical areas, as well as of the body in its entirety. During the project we confirmed, that this body perception is difficult for many sufferers.
  • Solving or reducing physical tensions ,is a first step in order to contribute to improved body awareness, which in turn can also contribute to the resolution of mental tension.
  • Improving perception of internal limits. Conscious perception of one’s own body with its needs and tensions can help to perceive the emotional needs and limitations.
  • Strengthening the group contacts. The group participants should be reinforced in their sense of belonging in order to promote communication and interpersonal skills of the people concerned and to counteract social withdrawal.

Design and implementation of group sessions.

More than two-thirds of the spa guests had registered to participate in the sound project, enabling the organisers to form three solid heterogeneous groups, each with 6 to 8 participants. The participants had the possibility to alternate between group sessions and the individual sound massage. It was central to the “improvement of self-awareness”.

Each spa guest was accompanied by an individual translator. Deaf-blind communicate mainly via the Lorm (deaf-blind manual) alphabet: words are alphabetised through characters in the palms. Communication presented a common problem during the sound week. Due to the varied medical conditions, the different translations (Lorm signs, sign language and cochlear implants) took a lot of time to complete.

Taking into account the above objectives, it was important to design structure and individual elements equivalent to those offered for hearing and sighted people. In accordance with the objectives the Sound was offered, both in groups and individually (sound massage). The theme of “Compatibility with the outside” was the focus of the three group sessions.  Those contained solid elements, from the first tentative touching of the bowls up to the independent gong play. Although created by us, they were nevertheless met with strong resonance from the spa guests. They had a possibility to share their experiences with the group at the beginning and end of every session. To start with, in the group sessions curiosity and fun predominated, against our expectations of skepticism or initial shyness. Even timid participants who indicated early concerns, very quickly and confidently could connect with the singing bowls. Especially the XXL bowl found enthusiasm: by bending over the water-filled, sound activated bowl the participants could tactilely perceive the water and sound.

In addition, the Gong became very popular: it was struck on the reverse side by a team member, with the participants seated individually before the gong. Sound vibrations have been thereby intensely perceived and enjoyed. Also their own Gong play performances were very respectful despite hearing deficits. The instrument, as a means of expression, without hesitation was used among the participants faster and with less fear, compared to many hearing people. The Gong players made careful contact with the instrument, and allowed themselves a longer monologue. “The Gong is talking to me,” reported one spa guest.

For one the last highlights of the group sessions, participants formed a circle and sound activated their respective favourite bowls. In that time, the Gong was activated in the middle. What originated solely as the tactile perception of the Sound, ended up as almost exactly uniform concert.


Insights into the Peter Hess-sound massage: Gustav’s case *

Gustav, a middle-aged man was accompanied to the sound group by his mother. She designated her son as a “problem child”: Gustav was very introverted, shy and skeptical towards other people.

“He will come back, when you have what reaches” shared his mother with us at the beginning of the first group session. Initially Gustav took a really cautious attitude, but soon let himself be taken by the Sound. Especially the turns with the XXL-bowl gave him much joy. Gustav not only came to the second group session, but even reported at the sound massage.

Over the week, Gustav showed himself as a bright man who seemed less passive and took initiative more frequently. His attention span and focus were markedly increased. The posture had changed. The stand was sure and head and body straightened. The eyes had opened and appeared clearer. At the end the week, Gustav thanked us profusely several times. His mother said: “My son has arrived somewhere, although I do not know where, but he has arrived somewhere.”


Further observations and results

The feedback from the participants was consistently positive and broadly agreed with this of hearing people. The intense stimulus absorbed through skin allows for deaf-blind people a very special and intense experience of sound. During the final feedback, in addition to the”really great experience”, achieving deep relaxation, a better and deeper sleep, increased balance, drive and creativity, physical relaxation and reduction of all types of pain as well as improved body awareness (individual parts as well the body in a holistic sense), were generally experienced. Also most of the companions perceived the program participants as “relaxed”, “cheerful”, or simply “changed”.

The group dynamics changed during the week noticeably, communication between meetings increased markedly. Already after the first sound contacts, the project was the main talking point for the resort guests; during mealtimes e.g. they exchanged intensively on their individual and collective musical experiences. The feeling of a stronger group cohesion has been described by many participants during the final feedback.

For us, the sound week was an unforgettable experience. We had learned a lot and were impressed by the sound sensations that had taken place this week.

Summary and Outlook

In total, the program “Sounds for people with a hearing or visual impairment “is definitely regarded as successful; earlier formulated objectives have been met and the project was very well received among all participants! Several participants asked about possibilities to obtain the sound massage in private framework, and were interested in the repetition of the project.

From occupational therapy perspective, the use of sound for people with hearing and visual impairment provides promising opportunities. The spa week yielded much information that could be built upon the therapeutic context. With the implementation of this project in Bad Meinberg we have aroused interest in the sound in participants and other contributors. We hope to accomplish more of both practical and theoretical work to contribute to the potential therapeutic use of sound for people with hearing and visual disabilities.



Project initiator: Birgitt Wiesendt is the Peter Hess-Sound Educator, Reiki instructor (western Method & Jikiden Reiki by Tadao Yamaguchi and Frank Arjava Petter), training in the silent Qi Gong and Chinese medical gymnastics. Teaches Peter Hess-sound massage I to IV, specialist seminars in Aroma Qi-gong I and II learning with Sound as well as expressive communication.

Contact; Phone: 02331-1279233 • Email:

Project Assistant: Almut Stühmeier is Peter Hess-sound massage practitioner, Certified Registered Nurse Anaesthetist, intensive care nurse, podiatrist. Many years of experience in intensive care and foot care. Focus: Working with autistic people, hospice, and people with multiple disabilities.

Contact; Mobile: 0174-1764007 • Email:

Project Documentation: Jasmin Worseg B. A., is trained in Peter Hess-sound massage I-IV. She has traveled to India and Nepal and studied music therapy in the Netherlands. Currently studying part-time for her Master’s degree in Music Therapy in Frankfurt / a.M.

Contact;  Phone: 06421-1867145 • Mobile: 0157-73524993 Email:


©translation and edit: Alex Andrzejewski (Maranta Sound Academy)2016

©2011Peter Hess Institute