JEHANNE:

Jehanne suddenly woke. She was still in her bed, next to her husband, but she felt as though she were on fire.

She moved her head. The room was spinning with such ferocity that she quickly shut her eyes tightly.

Immediately, she felt as though she were falling through space and quite unable to stop herself. She gripped the sheets in terror, but the "most horrendous sensation" did not stop. With no balance and no reference points as to what was up, down or sideways, panic set in with an overwhelming pressure on her heart and the most violent palpitations.

Then came the appalling nausea, followed by a complete evacuation of her whole system - "it really was totally terrifying!"

This was Jehanne's first experience of Meniere's Vertigo - a condition which the doctors were to confess was incurable - although it was not diagnosed as such for some time.

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By the age of eight Jehanne had lost all hearing in her right ear.

She had been suffering bouts of medically unexplained illnesses with periods of extreme giddiness and nausea for some time - and then came the silence. Tests were to reveal that her middle ear was, apparently, irreparably damaged, yet no one seemed able to provide any satisfactory explanation. The most the doctors could suggest was that she never do handstands, spins or cartwheels - "fine by me, I thought, as I had never had any particular desire to indulge in either tumbling or gymnastics!"

Her handicap was not to prevent her from developing a love for music and a natural ability with foreign languages. Indeed, she went on to become a singer-songwriter, but was constantly frustrated by the difficulties she found in playing with a group of musicians - "only able to absorb sound from the left, I have to stand to the right of all the other musicians, which makes it very difficult to judge things like my own volume so there is always an element of guesswork". Aware of this, a friend lent her a Canadian book written by a woman who had studied the work of Professor Tomatis. Jehanne was so interested that she wrote to the author and thereby obtained the address of the Paris centre.

Soon after these initial enquiries, Jehanne's voice teacher introduced her to Tomatis' autobiography 'The Conscious Ear' - "this proved to be one of the most thrilling and stimulating books I have ever read, I was underlining on every other page and commenting excitedly to my husband about what I was finding. Here was someone whose research and practise, carried out with passionate dedication, combined scientific knowledge and discipline with open minded exploration."

In 1993, with her three children grown and no longer at home, Jehanne, her husband and a friend set out for their first major music tour across Europe. "Strangely I was not enjoying the singing. I found the travelling and socialising difficult and was sleeping very badly. I had to push myself hard in order to get through." In fact, she had to admit that she had been losing the joy in her singing for sometime and that "finding energy had become more and more of a problem".

It was upon returning home from the Continent that she was first struck down with a severe attack of vertigo, and that "complete upheaval of the digestive system, not to mention pressure on the heart and a frightening drop in temperature". It took Jehanne a full two weeks to recover.

A month or so later, whilst 'convalescing' in Cornwall, in the early hours of Easter morning, Jehanne found herself "cast into that black, spinning place" for a third time. This was the first occasion that Meniere's Vertigo was suggested. As soon as she was able to sit up and read, she scanned the pages of 'The Conscious Ear' for any reference to this apparently permanent condition - "What I read made perfect sense! Meniere's disease is not normally curable, and here was Tomatis offering to cure it...I knew that as soon as I was strong enough, I had to go to Paris."

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Jehanne took four sessions of treatment, initially at the Tomatis Centre in Paris and then, with its opening last year, at the Listening Centre in Lewes. Through the consultations and listening tests, she learnt that, in addition to the vertigo, through forcing her voice and "pushing myself against the current emotionally" she was going deaf in her left ear as well.

Now, with all treatment completed, Jehanne confidently states that the results have been quite remarkable:

"My left ear is now functioning perfectly. The response of my right ear, which had regained a percentage of hearing (enabling me to hear in stereo for the first time since childhood) has become sharper and more refined, a process which is still continuing. Furthermore, the right ear has begun to take over its true directing role, despite its deficiency compared with the left...But these wonderful results were only the beginning of the effects on my life of Listening Therapy.

"Listening Therapy has put me back in the driving seat. Looking back now, I realise that I had been slowly losing my sense of direction over quite a few years, but had been too frightened most of my life to seek for help when I came up against personal blocks and questions. My health was also not very robust. Since Listening Therapy, I have felt empowered with the confidence to make choices and decisions with much more clarity, and when problems arise I trust my intuition regarding ways of solving them. This has led me to the people and situations that have helped me to work with weaknesses in my health, and to feel much stronger and more positive about my life.

"There are also more subtle ways in which I know I have benefited. Take the listening - as I grow in inner confidence, the listening capacity seems to extend too, so that I find that I am not only able to listen with much more attentiveness, but there is a growing capacity to listen inwards, both to myself and to what is around me. My whole approach to singing has deepened and I find that I am increasingly fascinated by the nature and possibilities of the human voice.

"The work of Dr. Alfred Tomatis has changed my life and opened up many new doors through the gateways of my ears, and I am deeply grateful. I cannot give enough thanks and honour to him. My life is now more exciting than it has ever been.

"When this work becomes accepted and widely available, we shall have begun at last to understand the central importance of listening to being a fully human being."

 redjelly