Binaural beat therapy is an innovative approach in the field of sound therapy . It is based on the principle that each ear receives a slightly different sound frequency, but the brain merges them to create a unified perception of sound.
Clinical studies are still needed
This mode of treatment is currently recommended by its followers to manage problems such as anxiety , stress and associated disorders. Generally, this method of self-help is accessible via audio files listened to through stereo headphones.
However, it is important to note that scientific studies have not yet confirmed the clinical benefits of this therapy. Moreover, it is not supervised by a medical professional. Therefore, it is not recommended to substitute it for conventional treatments for stress and anxiety.
In summary, binaural beat therapy is not recognized as a standard treatment for any medical condition and is often considered by the medical community to be in an experimental phase.
In this article, we explain what binaural beats are and review current research to assess their effectiveness. We also explain how to use them.
How do binaural beats work?
According to a 2015 literature review, tones must be at frequencies below 1,000 hertz (Hz) for the brain to detect the binaural beat. The binaural beat perceived by a person corresponds to the difference in frequency between the waves entering the left ear and the right ear.
For example, if the left ear records sound at 200 Hz and the right ear at 210 Hz, the binaural beat is 10 Hz – the difference between the two frequencies.
Findings from a 2018 study suggest that listening to binaural beats for a recommended amount of time may affect a person's subsequent behavior and sleep cycles.
The study authors explain that there are five different categories of frequency patterns:
- Delta pattern : Binaural beats in the delta pattern operate at a frequency of 0.5 to 4 Hz and are linked to dreamless sleep. In the study, people who received a delta-like frequency while sleeping entered a deeper phase of sleep , according to brain electroencephalogram (EEG) results.
- Theta pattern : Practitioners tune binaural beats in the theta pattern at a frequency of 4 to 7 Hz. Theta rhythms help improve meditation, creativity , and sleep in the rapid eye movement (REM) phase.
- Alpha pattern : The binaural beats of the alpha pattern are tuned to a frequency of 7–13 Hz and can promote relaxation .
- Beta Model : Beta Model binaural beats are at a frequency of 13 to 30 Hz. This frequency range can promote focus and alertness . However, it can also increase anxiety in higher frequencies.
- Gamma pattern : This frequency pattern falls within a range of 30 to 50 Hz. The study authors suggest that these frequencies support maintaining arousal when a person is awake.
The goal of binaural beat therapy may vary from person to person. Some people may need help reducing their anxiety, while others may want to increase their concentration or deepen their level of meditation.
Proponents of binaural beat therapy suggest the potential benefits include:
- reduction of stress and anxiety
- improved concentration and motivation
- improved self-confidence
- better long-term memory after exposure to beta-like frequencies, according to a 2019 study
- deeper meditation
- improved psychomotor performance and mood
However, a 2017 study that measured the effects of binaural beat therapy using EEG monitoring found that binaural beat therapy does not affect brain activity or emotional stimulation. The researchers also monitored heart rate and skin conductance as indicators of emotional arousal.
Using Binaural Beats to Combat Anxiety
To listen to binaural beats, a person needs a pair of stereo headphones and an MP3 player or other music system.
Since leading authorities on psychiatric treatment do not recommend the use of binaural beats, it is usually the producer of the tape who makes suggestions for use.
Instructions should be followed carefully.
People who see no reduction in anxiety may benefit from trying a different producer, another type of sound, or another frequency.
It is important to avoid using binaural beat therapy when undertaking tasks that require alertness and full attention, such as driving a vehicle.
Early research from 2007 suggests that binaural beat therapy may be beneficial for people with mild anxiety. However, the authors stated that it is only worth studying as a therapeutic measure to support conventional treatments for anxiety, but also natural treatments.
Despite this, other researchers have continued to study this therapy. A 2005 study of more than 100 participants undergoing general anesthesia for day surgery found a reduction in preoperative anxiety after exposure to a delta-wave binaural beat.
Participants in this study listened to 30 minutes of binaural beats before surgery. However, researchers noted that people with high levels of pre-operative anxiety could listen to binaural beats up to an hour before anesthesia to reduce anxiety levels.
Researchers at the National College of Natural Medicine in Oregon conducted a study of binaural beat therapy in 2007. They evaluated eight study participants who listened to delta-wave binaural beat therapy every day for 60 days.
Results showed a decrease in anxiety , insulin-like growth factor, and dopamine. Participants also reported an improvement in their quality of life. The team concluded that, despite the small sample size, and further research is needed, binaural beats could improve self-reported anxiety .
The quality of available research is uneven and studies are ongoing. Most studies confirming the benefits of binaural beat therapy have small cohorts and use subjective measures, such as questionnaires. There are few recent, high-quality studies confirming the effectiveness of binary beat therapy in the treatment of anxiety.
However, it is possible to practice binary beat therapy at home without any training. Therefore, people who find that this therapy reduces their anxiety may use it to support ongoing anxiety treatment.
It's important to note that there isn't enough research on the long-term side effects of the therapy. It is advisable to start with short sessions of binaural beat therapy and gradually increase exposure to this therapy.