Many people listen to binaural beats to help them reduce anxiety and induce sleep or relaxation.
Binaural beats can only be heard using earphones or headphones. When the left and right ear hear two slightly different tones, the difference of the tones is called the binaural beat. The brain perceives this as a new frequency.
But do binaural beats really work? To understand the binaural beat and its effect, we must first understand how the brain works.
Brainwaves are produced by electrical pulses coming from our neurons when they communicate with each other. Transmission of these electrical pulses results in different mental states, emotions, and actions.
The speed of brainwaves are measured by Hertz (Hz) - the unit of frequency.
Types of Brainwaves
Delta Waves (from 0.5Hz to 3Hz)
Delta waves are slow but loud brainwaves. This brainwave is generated during dreamless sleep or deep meditation. Healing and regeneration are stimulated in this state.
Theta Waves (from 3Hz to 8Hz)
This brainwave is also generated during sleep and meditation. In theta, our senses are focused on the signals from within, rather than from the external world.
Alpha Waves (from 8Hz to 12Hz)
These waves are dominant when we are thinking or in some meditation state. This wave aids in overall mental coordination, learning, calmness, and alertness.
Beta Waves (from 12Hz to 38Hz)
This wave dominates our normal awake state. These waves are present when we are attentive, alert, or doing something that requires focused mental activity.
Gamma Waves (from 38Hz to 42Hz)
This is the fastest of all the brainwaves. It passes information rapidly. These waves are highly active when in state of universal love, selflessness, or expanded conciousness.
This is a visualisation of the brainwaves. Source: shutterstock.com (public domain)
Based on the definition and illustration, we can see that, the faster the frequency, the higher the level of alertness. The slower the frequency, the less alert a person is.
Research has shown that exposing people to specific frequencies results in a process called brainwave entrainment. This refers to the brain's capacity to naturally synchronize its own frequency to the rhythm of the external stimuli.
The strongest evidence for binaural beats effect on the brain involves the ability to reduce anxiety and induce deep relaxation. Binaural beats appeared to decrease fatigue, anxiety and confusion. However, some studies also shows that listening to it could actually increase depression. It seems that only the lower frequency binaural beats, such as Theta and Delta waves, are related to increased depression. Binaural beats stimulation in the Beta range resulted in decreased depression.
The studies measuring binaural beats on memory, focus and creativity reveal mixed results. Some studies show improvement in these mental states after binaural beats stimulation, while others show a decrease or no effect at all.
This shows that using different frequency sounds could result in different effects on the brain because different networks are involved. This also shows that this may not work for everybody. Humans are all different, and what works for one person may not work for the other.
Based on my personal experience of binaural beats, it really relaxes my mind and can put me to sleep easily. I also find this helpful to reduce pain. If you try to search on YouTube, there's a lot of binaural beats for a specific pupose. For sleep, relaxation, pain relief and others. But then again, the result may vary from one person to another.