Music does more than sooth; it can heal.
Andrea Eitner ’17 is a music therapy major at Pacific University, where she completed a senior capstone project examining the effects of music on infants born prematurely.
The infants, born at 26 to 30 weeks of pregnancy, often weigh 1 pound or less. Their lungs are not fully developed, and their ability to nurse is weak. Some infants born with drug addictions have high stress levels in addition to the other physical conditions. They live in incubators, often connected to feeding and oxygen tubes and have less human touch than babies born at full term.
In the studies, neonatal infants were exposed to the Brahm’s Lullaby, Ocean Disk —similar to the whooshing sounds heard within the womb — for 15 to 30 minutes once or twice a week. Those who had the therapy had higher oxygen levels, lower heart rates, decreased stress, gained weight more quickly, and had shorter hospital stays.
Some infants also had special pacifiers that were hooked up to music that would play when the child nursed. This stimulated the child to keep nursing to gain the musical reward, thus increasing their weight more quickly.
Since Andrea has a love of music and of children she now is interested in pursuing a career in this form of non-invasive, low-cost treatment for neonatal infants.
The music therapy major at Pacific University is a five-year bachelor’s degree program that includes a year-long internship and preparation to sit for national certification. Students develop musical proficiency in voice, piano, guitar and percussion, build entry-level competencies in psychology, neuroscience, anatomy and healthcare practice, and gain experience alongside a professional music therapist.