January 13

Can Listening to Binaural Beats Make You Feel Better?

Sabrina Vasquez
Core Spirit member since Dec 24, 2020
Reading time 5 minutes

Binaural beat technology (BBT) was discovered in the early 1800s and first described in the popular literature in the early 1970s. In the last four decades, binaural beat audio programs have been touted as tools for reducing stress, improving sleep, enhancing concentration, and even fostering altered states of consciousness. In the ‘70s and ‘80s, BBT audiotapes were primarily found in more esoteric venues, such as New Age bookstores, health food emporia, and retreat centers dedicated to consciousness exploration. One such center, the Monroe Institute in Virginia, is well known for their use of Hemi-Sync recordings, which feature BBT.

Today, BBT has become more commonplace, as one can download MP3s and smartphone applications in a matter of moments. Although the prevalence and popularity of such products has waxed and waned, several studies examining the potential usefulness off BBT have been conducted with a variety of populations.

What is BBT?

The term “binaural beat” refers to the brain’s tendency to hear the difference between two similar tones that are played in opposite ears as one new tone. Our ears hear tones in terms of hertz (Hz), or cycles (the number of times a wave repeats itself) per second. Beats played at frequencies that are characteristic of brain wave frequencies are both audible and thought to facilitate alterations in our predominant brain-wave state.

Types of Brain Waves and Their Associated States

At any given time, our predominant brain wave may be in the frequency associated with deep sleep or deep trance (delta; 1-4 Hz), meditation (theta; 4-8 Hz), relaxed awareness or daydreaming, (alpha; 8-12 Hz), a state of relaxed focus (low-beta, or sensorimotor rhythm ; 12-15 Hz), alert mental activity/concentration (mid-beta; ~15-18 Hz), anxiety (high-beta; >18 Hz), or high-level information processing (gamma; >30 Hz). Gamma brain-wave states appear to be the least well researched. There is no “best” state to be in; however, at different times we will understandably want to be able to shift into one that is appropriate to the task at hand, whether sleeping, working on a project, or relaxing.

What Type of BBT for Which Conditions?

It has been hypothesized that a number of conditions, including chronic stress, chronic and postoperative pain, migraines and other headaches, problems with attention/concentration or learning, and insomnia, to name a few, reflect an imbalance or irregularity in brain-wave states. The deliberate use of BBT to change the predominant brain-wave state is referred to as brain-wave entrainment (BWE). BWE is not limited to BBT, but discussion of other methods is outside the scope of this article. However, a 2008 review of the BWE literature found that delta stimulation was associated with improvement in migraines and other headaches and reduction in short-term stress. A single session of alpha stimulation was associated with stress reduction in some settings, but not for those undergoing root canal. Alpha stimulation was also linked to pain relief. Beta improved attention, reduced short-term stress, alleviated headaches, reduced behavioral problems, and improved performance on measures of overall intelligence. An alpha-beta protocol improved verbal skills performance and attention, and a beta-gamma protocol showed improved arithmetic skills in children who had learning disabilities or attention-deficit hyperactivity. Most of these studies examined photic stimulation (presented via flashing lights) or combined photic and BBT entrainment rather than BBT alone. Thus, it is difficult to draw a definitive conclusion about the specific utility of BBT from this review.

BBT as a Potential Tool for Reducing Anxiety and Pain

The results of a small pilot study published in 2007 found that listening to an hour-long program emphasizing delta BBT for 60 days was associated with a decrease in self-reported trait anxiety and an increase in quality of life among eight healthy adults. The level of dopamine (an excitatory neurotransmitter) was also decreased significantly and may be related to the decrease in trait anxiety scores. Interestingly, the team assessed changes in the level of growth hormone because the BBT’s producer claimed that listening would increase these levels. Growth hormone decreases with age, and thus, an increase would be considered a potentially beneficial outcome; yet, listening to this BBT program was associated with a significant decrease in growth hormone. Both the reasons for this result and it’s implications are unclear.

Perhaps two of the more intriguing studies about BBT were the following trials with patients undergoing surgery. The first is a 2005 double-blind, randomized controlled trial in which 108 patients undergoing general anesthesia for elective surgeries received either a BBT plus music audio, the same music without BBT, or no intervention other than standard care for a 30-minute period prior to their operations. The BBT audio featured a progressively slowing beat that ended with 10 minutes of delta. No adverse events were noted, and although initial state anxiety scores were higher in the BBT group (prior to the intervention), the most significant decrease in anxiety was also in the BBT group—even after adjusting for the fact that participants in this group on average had higher initial anxiety. Listening to music alone was also associated with a significant decrease in anxiety, but this decrease was of a lesser magnitude than that of the BBT group. This study showed that an inexpensive, one-time intervention of short duration was beneficial despite the stress characteristic of undergoing surgery.

The other study was a randomized controlled trial of 60 patients about to have surgery with general anesthesia. Twenty patients were assigned to each of three conditions: a Hemi-Sync BBT program, listening to the music of their choosing, or listening to a blank audiocassette for 30 minutes prior to surgery. None of the participants was offered any sedative premedication. Stereo headsets from all groups of participants were removed before the patients entered the operating room but were replaced and the respective audio programs restarted after the induction of anesthesia. Headsets were discontinued at the conclusion of surgery. The researchers found that using the Hemi-Sync programs resulted in significantly less intraoperative use of fentanyl (a very potent, synthetic opiate pain medication), lower self-reported pain scores several hours after the surgery, and being discharged from the hospital sooner. Unfortunately, the specific frequency of BBT was not described in this article.

Anecdotally, several months ago I went for my first-ever root canal and noticed considerable anxiety at the thought of having a very sensitive tooth drilled (even with anesthetic). On the way to the endodontist’s office, I listened to both a guided imagery program designed specifically for medical procedures in which one must remain awake (available via HealthJourneys.com) and also to a free delta BBT program (Napuru) I’d downloaded for my iPhone. The delta tones were played against a backdrop of ocean waves. My subjective experience was that the BBT and imagery, combined with mindfulness practice before and during the root canal, reduced my anxiety significantly and enabled me to get through what seemed like an eternity of loud drilling. I cannot say what the most “active” ingredient in this integrative approach was; however, the point is that this nondrug, inexpensive, easy-to-use adjunct was effective for me.

BBT has been around for decades and is now readily and inexpensively available. There are some data to suggest that it may be helpful for relieving anxiety in general and in the context of a stressful event. There is also some evidence that BBT or other methods of brainwave entrainment may help with pain, concentration, headaches, and other issues, and serious risks or side effects have not been reported. The current research does not definitively answer the question of whether there would be a dose-response effect or a benefit from listening to BBT more regularly versus listening once; however, this seems plausible. More research needs to be done to better elucidate whether BBT could be used as an independent therapeutic tool, however. Additionally, assuming BBT is effective, one should not drive or perform tasks requiring sharp focus when listening to delta, theta, or alpha tones, as these may induce a very relaxed state.

by Traci Stein For Good Therapy

Comments

Leave your questions here

To write a comment you must
or
Services
Category filter
Concern filter
Type filter
Sort
 
All categories
Art Therapy
$50 USD
Artist Teacher Workshop Or Tutoring

“Life Force” guiding our history, our body and spirits. Self portrait art, life drawing from the live model, gesture, and plein air painting. And extended cont…

Bryan Prillwitz
United States of America flag icon
Tarot Reading
$100 USD
Timeline Reading

EGYPTIAN TAROT READINGS using unique methods developed by Nelise Carbonare, a Brazilian healer with more than 40 years of experience in tarot consultations, as…

Nelise Carbonare
United States of America flag icon
Tarot Reading
$120 USD
THE SYNERGY OF THE PYRAMID

THE SYNERGY OF THE PYRAMID focuses on a specific relationship: One side for the consultant and one for their partner. (the partner does not need to be present …

Nelise Carbonare
United States of America flag icon
Tarot Reading
$10 USD
Pick one card

Many questions can be answer with just one Arcane.

Do you want to try?

Nelise Carbonare
United States of America flag icon
Personal Development Coaching
$50 USD
Spiritual Coaching - Removing Energy Blocks - Expansion

> “Who looks outside dreams. Who looks inside awakens.” Jung

Spiritual coaching is about moving you into a profound state of empowerment and involution m…

Kimla Rose (Kim Desrosiers)
United States of America flag icon
Life Coaching
$10 USD
Life Purpose and Soul Wisdom

What is your deeper truth, your deeper knowing, your MOJO, your deepest desires, those feelings that you can’t explain but that are so pure and so clear…or may…

Anna Beale
United States of America flag icon
Wellness Coaching
$10 USD
Your Missing Manual for Health & Life!

Are you constantly reading books, blogs and listening to podcasts trying to figure out what to do to be healthy?

With so much conflicting information out ther…

Pamela Malo
United States of America flag icon
Nutritional Therapy
$150 USD
Nutritional Therapy Consultation

Hi my name is Aria and I am the founder of Heal with Nutrition. I am a registered Nutritional Therapist and a Naturopath who has a passion on Nutrition and Hea…

Aria Alexandrou
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland flag icon
Tarot Reading
$10 USD
THOTH AND HERMETIC DECKS READING

With a deep knowledge of hermeticism and being introduced to the kabbalah tradition of the emanation process from the tree of life, I provide a deep insight co…

James Marchiori
Ireland flag icon
Personal Development Coaching
$55 USD
The Bridge to Your Desired Life

This is were you get real help with your struggles and life challenges. As life gets harder to cope with, we tend to look for external ways to get through. And…

Mina Mikhail
United States of America flag icon
Naturopathy
$10 USD
Intake Consult

short introduction consult to Integrative Medicine

Femke Neervoort
Netherlands flag icon
Career Coaching
$300 USD
Reset Coaching and Mentoring Programme

12 weeks of bi-weekly 90 minutes 1:1 Coaching and Mentoring. Total cost USD1800 (6x90minutes career coaching and mentoring session)

Are you returning to work …

Carla Martins
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland flag icon
Personal Development Coaching
$120 USD
Spiritual Life Coach Session-Personalized Session

Personalized Sessions

Because Everyone Is Unique

Client-centered sessions based on the area of focus requested by the client.

Each session is a LIVE Sessio…

Deborah Lucero
United States of America flag icon
Reiki
$55 USD
Guidance, Inspiration & Healing

This type of session is a favorite among many of my clients, as it is often times one of the smoothest way to address a challenge to reach a happier and health…

Mina Mikhail
United States of America flag icon
Mediumism
$10 USD
Psychic Readings

I specialize in love, past present future, future, past life, general, tarot, dream interpretation, specific, social, and career readings! Book today for clari…

Holly
United States of America flag icon
Life Coaching
$399 USD
1-on-1 Coaching

The journey started with our discovery call, and You decided: ” I’m ready! Let’s do this!”.

We will engage in 1-on-1 coaching sessions for 90 minutes. In this…

Carla Martins
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland flag icon
Ascension
$88 USD
Ascension Mentor Support

In this session, we come together with similar to a healing session but face to face.

We talk about what issues you are facing at the moment and we delve deep…

Claire C.
Australia flag icon
Spiritual Healing
$177 USD
Energy Healing

I am honored to assist you with intuitive channeled energy healings that support and nurture you on a physical level as well soul and energetic level, each ses…

Claire C.
Australia flag icon
Reiki
$375 USD
Usui Reiki 1st Degree Course

FIRST DEGREE COURSE - The ultimate Reiki course.

Have you ever wondered if you can heal? Have you felt a burning desire to help others? Then you’ve come to th…

Step Into Your Light - Christina Moore
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland flag icon
Life Coaching
$10 USD
Hand Analysis - Startup Session

What does a hand analysis do for me? ​

You will understand yourself and your life purpose. ​You will understand the roots of your triggers and reactionary be…

Brent Bruning, Master Hand Analyst
Switzerland flag icon
Shamanism
$10 USD
Sample Akashic Records Reading for Your Burning Issue

I connect to your Akashic Records and listen to what your guides want to bring to your conscoius attention at this time. Perhaps, it is an insight into why you…

Olga Aydınoğlu
Turkey flag icon
Shamanic Healing
$300 USD
Shamanic Healing Art

What is Shamanic Healing Art?

It is a physical artwork (usually a pastel drawing) I make for you based on the outcome of our online session. This artwork will…

Olga Aydınoğlu
Turkey flag icon
Shamanic Healing
$70 USD
Heal to say "No"

A limits and boundaries shamanic healing session to help you heal relevant wounds and traumas from this and/or other lifetimes, let go of false beliefs, judgem…

Olga Aydınoğlu
Turkey flag icon
Shamanic Healing
$70 USD
Writer's Block Shamanic Healing Session

Before the Session

I do my pre-meditation to find out the main reasons for your writer’s block. (This happens psychically, where I generally just need your na…

Olga Aydınoğlu
5
Turkey flag icon

Related Articles