Safe and Sound Protocol

Developed by leading American psychiatrist Dr Stephen Porges, the Safe and Sound Protocol (SSP) is a 5-day treatment that uses headphones and filtered music. This gentle therapy retrains the muscles of the middle ear to reduce sensitivity to background noise. The picture below shows how it works.

The top picture shows what happens when the muscles of the middle ear do not work properly. The pink area and red line represent background noise. For people who have social anxiety, autism or PTSD, background noise can interfere with the sound of human voices. This makes the person feel anxious and impairs their attention and social engagement.

We are usually unaware of the auditory aspect of these states.

The bottom picture shows the muscle of the middle ear working properly. Background noise is dampened or filtered out. This makes it easier to hear human voices (blue area and blue line). The person feels less anxious or stressed.

The SSP retrains the muscle of the middle ear (stapedius) to filter out background noise as it is supposed to. The result is that the person can engage with others more easily, can focus on tasks more normally, and feels less anxious. People with PTSD will startle less at loud noises.

Studies have shown that the SSP calms the listener’s physiological and emotional state. For autistic children, the SSP opens the door to better communication and attention, which in turn improves the outcome from other therapies.

The SSP is a research-based (empirical) therapy. Significant results have been documented in the following areas:

  • Emotional difficulties
  • Autism
  • Auditory sensitivities
  • General anxiety and stress
  • Social anxiety
  • PTSD
  • Inattention

The SSP may also reduce the negative effects of

  • Orthodontic treatment
  • Whiplash
  • Tinnitus (tinnitus due to medication won’t be helped by SSP)
  • Joint hypermobility (h-EDS)

A passive auditory therapy

Read more about the SSP here.