Binaural beats are gaining popularity for their ability to discourage negative brain states and promote more positive ones such as relaxation, focus, confidence, concentration and even motivation.
And as people are getting to know about them, some believe that they could make a good replacement for traditional treatment among other medical procedures, which is not quite the case.
Here, we explain at length what binaural beats actually are, what research studies have found out about them and how to use them properly for good results.
What Are Binaural Beats
If you separate the word “binaural”, you get the word “bi” which means two and “aural” which means relating to the ear.
This gives some meaning of binaural beats as it means playing two different tones in your ears.
A binaural beat is the new tone created when you listen to two tones playing in your ears, where the frequency of the tone in one ear is higher than the frequency of the tone in the other ear.
Your brain perceives a third tone out of the difference of the frequencies of the two playing tones.
Suppose you have a tone with the frequency of 235 Hz (Hertz) playing in your left ear and another one with the frequency of 230 Hz playing in your right ear, you get to have a frequency difference of 15 Hz. This is what is referred to as a binaural beat.
Your brain hears this along with the other two tones and aligns itself with it which results to influencing your state of mind (1).
It is worth noting that with binaural beats, you need to have two tones in your ears playing at a frequency less than 1000 Hz and the difference in the frequency of the two tones should not exceed 30 Hz (2)(3).
Binaural beats are under brainwave entrainment that allows a person to use sound frequencies to promote better states of mind in a short time.
Binaural beats have proven beneficial in helping people relax, sleep, concentrate and become productive, just to name a few.
How Do Binaural Beats Work
Binaural beats make use of brain waves in our brains. When neurons in the brain are communicating, there is a certain amount of electricity that is noted. This electrical activity creates brain waves which can be seen using an EEG (Electroencephalography) machine (4).
Brain waves have a strong relation with the different mental states and the way we feel. There are patterns created by the brain waves that indicate the kind of mental state someone is in (5)(6)(7)(8)(9)(10)(11).
Here are some brain wave patterns and the state they indicate:
1. Delta brain wave pattern – This pattern occurs at a frequency less than 4 Hz. It is linked to a state of relaxation and deep sleep that doesn’t have dreams.
2. Theta brain wave pattern – This pattern is seen at a frequency between 4 Hz and 7 Hz. The mental states associated with it are creativity, meditation, relaxation and light sleep with REM (Rapid Eye Movement).
3. Alpha brain wave pattern -This pattern comes at a frequency between 8 Hz and 13 Hz. This pattern is normally seen when someone is starting to meditate. The light meditation brings about a state of relaxed wakefulness. Here, you are calm, relaxed and alert too.
4. Beta brain wave pattern – This brain wave pattern occurs at a frequency between 14 Hz and 30 Hz. The mental states associated with it are concentration, focus and alertness. This state is quite common during the day. However, it shouldn’t persist otherwise you might become anxious and stressed.
5. Gamma brain wave pattern – This pattern is seen at a frequency between 30 Hz and 50 Hz. It is linked to states of sharp focus, productivity and concentration. It is still being studied and it is said that people who engage in zen meditation depict this pattern.
As you can see, the higher the frequency, the higher the person working with it is aroused and the lower the frequency, the lower the state of arousal.
All this is under a form of brain science known as Brainwave Entrainment.
Brainwave entrainment, in a nutshell, is the usage of external stimuli such as sound frequencies to induce different states of the mind such as focus, relaxation, sleep, productivity and concentration.
When your brain hears this frequency it adjusts so as to align itself with the frequency which in turn shifts the state of your mind to state the frequency is known to bring (12).
What is the Difference Between Binaural Beats, Isochronic Tones and Monaural Beats
As we earlier mentioned, binarual beats has two tones playing at different frequencies. So you get to hear one tone with a higher frequency in one ear than the other frequency in the other ear.
Isochronic tones, however, are single tones that play like pulses or heartbeats. You get to hear a tone that plays like a heartbeat with the beats playing in well spaced intervals.
On the other hand, monaural beats are the tones you hear when two tones of the same frequencies are playing in your ear(s). The good thing about monaural beats is that you don’t need to use your headphones as with binaural beats. You can simply listen to them using your speakers and you will still get to benefit.
Benefits of Binaural Beats
There have been numerous studies on binaural beats and their ability to alter the states of mind and influence different states of the brain.
Although these studies are still in progress, the results so far have shown that binaural beats might be a good way to promote different positive states as well as great additions while carrying out various activities.
The benefits associated with the use of binaural beats include:
4. Increasing relaxation
6. Increasing your confidence
11. Improving the quality of sleep (36)
To have even better results, experts recommend using binaural beats when you are doing activities like meditating, studying and sleeping. They help make the activities more effective.
How to Use Binaural Beats
When using binaural beats, it is important to remember to use headphones or earphones so that the binaural beats can have an effect on you.
You can choose any binaural beats from the available producers out there and experiment with them. It is also worth noting that results differ from one person to another as we all have different brain and body chemistry.
So you may find that binaural beats from a certain producer work well for you but don’t do that well for your friend.
This is common even with medication and the best way to go about it is to try binaural beats from another producer.
It is all about trying different products and getting what works for you as an individual.
Also, there is no specific period that has been given by experts as to how long you should listen to the beats. You will have to work with what the producer has given you as instructions.
If there is an option where you can choose between a shorter and a longer version, start with the shorter one and assess how it works for you. From there, you can decide to stick with it or go for the longer version based on your results.
A few other things to help you get well-prepared to use binaural beats are:
* Make sure you are in a comfortable place and free of distractions
* Based on the results you are looking for, you can either keep your eyes open or closed. When studying and meditating, try to keep them open. When sleeping, you should definitely keep them closed.
* Make an effort of listening to the beats on the long term. Results take time, so you have to use them regularly but carefully, as recommended by the producer.
* Put personal effort to making it work. Binaural beats enhance personal effort, so you will need to put forth effort to see the kind of results you are looking for.
* Create a good environment for binaural beats. If you are sleeping, make sure you have a good environment for sleep. The same case for all the other situations you are using binaural beats.
Caution With Binaural Beats and Brainwave Entrainment
While brainwave entrainment is a good way to enter into positive desirable states of the brain, it also comes with its negative effects.
First of all, it is recommended for you not to overuse binaural beats. Many binaural beats programs come with instructions from the producer and you should follow them so as to get rewarding results.
For those that don’t come with instructions, it is always good practice to listen to them once per day. Don’t make the mistake of listening to binaural beats the whole day without taking breaks.
Moderation with everything is the best approach.
Also, when you feel any discomfort when using them, you should stop using them immediately and give yourself time to overcome the discomfort. It goes away with time.
If the discomfort persists, seek medical attention.
There is also a pocket of people that is discouraged from using brainwave entrainment products without the approval from an appropriate physician. This includes people who:
* Are under the age of 18 years
* Are prone to seizures (37)
* Are wearing a pacemaker
* Have brain injuries
* Are pregnant
* Are photosensitive
* Are epileptic
* Are operating serious machines or driving
* Have serious mental illnesses
* Are under the influence of drugs or medication
* Are not sure about their health
Also, it is not advisable to listen to binaural beats at a high volume, more than 85 decibels as this may cause loss of hearing (38).
Essentially, binaural beats are meant to be used to help you encourage more positive mental states in order to help you find peace, relaxation and become more productive.
They are very rewarding if you use them as instructed, if you are among the people who are fit to use them health wise.
However, if you use them when you are not supposed to without the approval from an appropriate physician, you will be putting your health at risk.