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Healing Sounds

For centuries, doctors and medical practitioners have debated the benefits of particular sounds on the human immune system. As 48 Hours Correspondent Susan Spencer reports, some patients are now putting their faith in the mystical healing power of Tibetan bowls.

"I never thought I'd see another Spring. I never thought that I'd have a Mother's Day with my children again. I never thought I'd have a birthday," says Marisa Harris.

And certainly, Marisa never thought she'd be playing Tibetan bowls every day, much less playing them as part of her treatment for ovarian cancer, a cancer which by one doctor's prediction should have killed her months ago.

"My white blood count for the first time is in the normal range," says Marisa.

After all, humans do respond to sound. Most people would agree that music can be a powerful force. But what about pure sound, like a simple tone? Can that have any sort of real healing property? Although it sounds strange, many physicians are asking the same question.

The theory is that sound can reduce stress, which can help the immune system function.

Marisa's doctor, Mitchell Gaynor, is the director of oncology at the Strang-Cornell Cancer Prevention Center in New York and author of Sounds of Healing. He relies on traditional treatments. But he's also sold on the Tibetan bowls, which he uses in addition to chemotherapy as part of his patient therapy.

"You can really look at disease as a form of disharmony," says Dr. Gaynor. "We know that sound and music have profound effects on the immune system, which clearly do have a lot to do with cancer."

Marisa Harris firmly believes the sounds are helping her heal. "I'm convinced that it really destroys cancer cells," she says.

Bronlyn Tuell Hall
Near Dallas, Bronlyn Tuell Hall is using sound in a different way, to train her brain to help her deal with the pain of rheumatoid arthritis. Six weeks ago, Bronlyn went to her first sound therapy session.

"I was either going to shrivel up and die or I was going to get better," says Bronlyn. "That felt a little weird. Conventional, it's not."

But then again, Bronlyn has never been conventional. Her four-year stint on the Cowboy's cheerleading squad was doubly remarkable because she carried on despite severe pain from her arthritis.

At her jam session, Bronlyn was told to express how she felt about her illness. From this, her doctors composed a tape, and she has been listening to those sounds every day. The idea is to change her brain wave patterns so they match those of smeone with a healthy immune system. It seems to have done its job. Bronlyn says she feels better.

"I have good days and bad days," she says. "But if you asked me three months ago the way I felt versus how I feel now, it's a completely different world."

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