HELP! My client won’t wear their headphones!

headphones placement

To celebrate the launch of our new SOUNDS headphones, we’re going to walk you through our tips and tricks to encourage consistent headphone use for your clients.

The SOUNDS is our newest model of Therapeutic Listening headphones, and was designed using all of the feedback and suggestions from our clients, making these are our most comfortable and easy-to-use model yet! However, if you find yourself still struggling with headphone usage in your practice, take a look at our tips below.

Lessening Resistance to Headphones:
The How To’s for Using Headphones with
Therapeutic Listening®

We understand that when working with clients, sometimes new endeavors are met with resistance – Therapeutic Listening is no exception. Imagine this scenario. You are planning on introducing Therapeutic Listening to your client for the first time within your session today. You have discussed Therapeutic Listening with the family and they would like to move forward with it as part of a home-program. As you begin your session, you foreshadow for your client that they are going to try some new music today. However, when you go to place the headphones on your client’s head, they immediately remove them clearly declaring “I don’t want those!” and run the other way. Now what?

One time or another, all therapists encounter this situation—clients who resist wearing the headphones, but could benefit from the outcomes of Therapeutic Listening. The key in this scenario is what you do next. Often, the issue is more related to our approach or how we setup the environment when we introduced the headphones—not that the client won’t wear the headphones. To maximize your success, try these simple techniques when introducing headphones for the first time:

  1. Engage the child in a favorite or novel activity that holds their interest. Often activities such as bubbles, coloring, playing with stuffed animals, toy cars, or trains are favorite choices of children.
  2. If the child is not able to stay engaged in an activity, they might need to move. Try swinging on a platform swing, going for a walk up and down a long hallway, or if the weather is nice even going for a walk outdoors.
  3. Consider your method for putting on the headphones. Instead of approaching the child face first, try sliding the headphones on from behind once the child is engaged in an activity. This is often less threatening.
  4. If the child then removes the headphones, lovingly but firmly reassure the child that it is “Time to listen”. Place the headphones on again and re-engage the child in their activity. The child may remove the headphones a couple times before they are accustomed to this idea of listening to music.
  5. Provide a visual representation of the remaining listening time by using a visual timer or clock. This will mark an ending point when the headphones can be removed.
  6. For our preschool clients, Rhythm and Rhyme often makes a good starting selection when you anticipate headphones may be met with resistance.

On occasion when headphones are not initially successful, we would suggest some additional considerations. For some clients, it may take longer to adjust to the idea of wearing headphones. Keep in mind, our goal is still to eventually introduce the headphones to maintain the quality of sound. However, you might need to slow down your approach to introducing the headphones…

  • Initially, you may play the music over speakers (in a small room), with minimal competing noise until the child is accustomed to the music. They may even need to listen to the music at home over speakers to get started with Therapeutic Listening. At the next session, try to introduce the headphones. This time, introduce the headphones while playing the Therapeutic Listening music the child is already accustomed to in order to maximize the success of the headphones.
  • If the child is working with a relationship-based or ABA therapist, the family may choose to introduce the headphones at home during their therapy sessions. Introducing the headphones at home will allow the family to incrementally increase the amount of time the child is wearing the headphones. Once the child is accustomed to the headphones, then introduce the Therapeutic Listening music over the headphones.

As therapists, our goal is to maximize the success of our clients by setting up the environment to best benefit the child. Sometimes this means making adjustments in our approach to introducing the headphones. When met with resistance, remain calm. Being creative in our approach to engage our clients in meaningful activities is part of what we do and who we are as occupational therapists. You can always deepen your understanding of Therapeutic Listening by taking “Listening with the Whole Body” or any of our other continuing educational workshops.


2 Comments on: “HELP! My client won’t wear their headphones!

  1. Great article, Anna Richardson gave me a hot tip by saying to the child ; “ let’s see how your brain likes the music “ – for me this has worked when a child is resistant.

  2. A basket of extremely motivating toys or crafts that come out ONLY when the headphones are on, and are put away as soon as listening finishes is a suggestion that has worked well for my families.

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