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Safe Sound Protocol

SSP what is it?   The Safe & Sound Protocol (SSP) was developed by Dr. Stephen Porges using the principles of Polyvagal Theory and was designed to reduce sound sensitivities, improve auditory processing, enhance physiologic state regulation, and increase social engagement behaviors by listening to specifically modulated music.

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SSP what is it?   

The Safe & Sound Protocol (SSP) was developed by Dr. Stephen Porges using the principles of Polyvagal Theory and was designed to reduce sound sensitivities, improve auditory processing, enhance physiologic state regulation, and increase social engagement behaviors by listening to specifically modulated music.

 

When the nervous system is a chronic state of a defense; it is hard to access social engagement, clear thinking, openness to new ideas, and the possibility for growth.

Why SSP works:

  • SSP fosters the ability for the nervous system to be retuned . This retuning is called Neuroplasticity. There is an ability of brain to change. In order, for this to take place the autonomic nervous system needs to be stimulated repeatedly through neural feedback loops. When that takes place myelin (nerve fibers)  becomes more efficient and the nervous system gets more flexible.

  • The SSP stimulate the part of the nervous system called the ventral vagal branch of the Vagus nerve which is responsible for safety and connection . Getting into a ventral vagal state leads to greater availability and openness.

  • The ventral vagal complex is also known as the social engagement system. This system is made up of the facial nerve, glossopharyngeal, accessory nerve, trigeminal nerve , and Vagus nerve.  The social engagement system regulates voice, facial expression, breathing, and regulation of the heart. Through the auditory system we can access the social engagement system.

  • The ssp fosters co-regulation; the safety and connection is bi-directional between client and provider. This is a key feature of the ssp process. 

  •  Low frequencies  like thunder trigger a state of defense ; whereas high frequencies like an alarm can signal danger. Middle frequencies  that are melodic foster safety and connection. The ssp uses the power of sound frequency to balance the nervous system.

How does it work?

Based on years of research by Dr. Stephen Porges and his Polyvagal Theory, the Safe and Sound Protocol (SSP) is a five-hour therapeutic listening intervention designed to support the client's emotional regulation and Neuroception (i.e. sense of one's safety), as well as decrease the client's auditory sensitivity.

The music is designed to stimulate the vagus nerve, which is responsible for calming the nervous system. This allows for enhanced social engagement and resilience in children and adults. The purpose of SSP is to create new, positive connections in the brain that allow the client to regulate oneself by "stretching the nervous system, not stressing the nervous system."

The Anatomy of listening: 

 The eardrum or tympanic membrane, middle ear muscles and bones, cochlea, brainstem, auditory cortex are all components of the listening process.  When the muscles (stapedius etc.) of the middle ear contract they tighten the eardrum; this process is called the middle-ear transfer function. 

 

This is a key mechanism of auditory processing.  It dampens loud sounds and low frequency sounds to be able to hear human voice.  When the stapedius muscle is inactive it does not dampen low frequency sounds. When the stapedius muscle is active it can dampen low frequency sounds. The muscles of the middle ear have interconnections via several cranial nerves.

  1. The stapedius muscle is innervated by facial nerve VII

  2. The tensor tympani is innervated by by trigeminal nerve (V)

  3. sensations from the tympanic membrane are conveyed by Cranial nerve V, X, and 1X. 
     

When auditory cues are received by the tympanic membrane the Vagus nerve will regulate breathing and heart rate to perform a calm physiologic state. Poor functioning of the middle ear muscle can be attributed to repeated ear infections/chronic otitis media; low tone in hypotonicity of other muscles (low muscle tone is common in autism); and trauma of chronic state of defense (ptsd).

Other ways SSP might work:

  • Molecular influences from neuropeptides such as oxytocin or vasopressin

  • Hormone influence (such as cortisol)

  • Effects of neurotransmitters

  • Brain wave changes

  • Gut microbiome changes

  • Brainstem function changes

Who will Benefit from SSP?

The Safe and Sound Protocol can be very helpful for children and adults who are going through life transitions, such as changing careers or starting a new school. SSP is great for emotional regulation and calming the nervous system, and can help you feel a greater sense of safety within yourself and the world.

Dr. Porges first began using the SSP with children with autism and it resulted in some incredible changes.

Please also see precautions and contraindications for the SSP.

 

Throughout the years, SSP has been proven to help individuals with:

  • Auditory sensitivity

  • Functional Gut Disorders (IBS, SIBO, GERD)

  • Sensory Processing Disorders (SPD)

  • Anxiety disorders

  • Attention/deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD/ADD),

  • Depression

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder

  • Relationship difficulties

  • Social anxiety

  • Separation anxiety

  • Anger

  • Reading comprehension issues

  • Sleep problems 

  • It continues to be helpful for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

 

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