Benefits of binaural beats and how it can heal your mind and body
What’s the easiest way to come out of a bad mood? Listen to your favourite song on loop! We have all done it at some point in our lives and felt the soothing effect sounds have on us.
Listening to an evening aarti or the soulful call of the azaan leaves us feeling happy and peaceful inside. Did you also know that listening to music during pregnancy and childbirth can help the mother cope with the stress and pain during delivery?. It can also treat neurological problems.
Our ancestors sure knew about the therapeutic power of music and sound, but it took centuries for science to finally recognise it. In 1839, a Prussian physicist and meteorologist, Heinrich Wilhelm Dove discovered something truly amazing when he was studying sounds. He found out that when both ears are made to listen to different frequencies of sound, the human brain does something amazing with it. The brain bridges the difference between the two frequencies to create its own third frequency.
Let’s put it this way. Imagine that in your right ear you hear a 20 Hz sound and in the left ear, you hear a 25 Hz. Your brain registers a 5 Hz frequency, which is the difference between the two frequencies. Amazing isn’t it? Your brain is, in fact, listening to an auditory illusion called Binaural Beats. The term is derived from ‘bi’ and ‘aural’, Latin words which mean ‘two’ and ‘related to the ears’ respectively.
What’s so special about binaural music? Well, for starters, it is known to reduce anxiety and stress. If used properly, binaural beats can also improve concentration and promote overall well-being.    All you need is a comfy spot to sit in and a pair of good headphones. It is easily available online; you could either visit YouTube or download apps for binaural beats.
When a friend first suggested I listen to binaural beats, I must admit, I was a little sceptical. But just 15 minutes into it, I could feel that my mind is a lot calmer and I could concentrate on my work much better!
So how do binaural beats work?
Studies show that binaural beats have an influence on the way our brain works . Billions of neurons that transmit signals are continuously at work, creating an enormous amount of electrical activity in our brain. This is what we commonly call brainwaves. The frequencies of these brainwaves range anywhere from 0.5 Hz to 100 Hz and keep fluctuating depending on what we are doing at the moment. While sleeping, the brain generates brainwaves of 4 Hz and while performing high-stress activities, it generates waves of 25 Hz.
What are the five main types of brainwaves?
- Beta waves (14Hz–30Hz) are generated in our brain when we are conscious, alert or tense.
- Alpha waves (8Hz–14Hz) are produced in our brain when we are in a state of relaxation and awareness.
- Theta waves (4Hz–8Hz) are formed during deep relaxation, hypnosis and meditation.
- Delta waves (0.5Hz–4Hz)are created when one is in a deep state of unconsciousness and dreamlessness
- Gamma waves (25 Hz- 100 Hz) have fast frequencies and are associated with high levels of brain functions and peak concentration.
If two frequencies of 110 Hz and 100 Hz are introduced into left and right ears respectively, your brain will register the difference, (10 Hz) automatically taking you to an Alpha state of relaxation and complete awareness. Or if one ear listens to 105 Hz and the other to 100 Hz, the brain registers the difference at 5 Hz, taking you to a deeply relaxed hypnosis state or Theta state. This way, one can move from any state of consciousness to another.
The binaural audio is calibrated according to the state of mind you want to achieve. By listening to it, you could easily enter the deep relaxation stage, which is usually achieved through meditation. This makes it an effective substitute for meditation!
What are the benefits of listening to binaural beats?
Psychologist Shraddha Sankulkar from Mind Matterz (A Psychological Guidance Unit) who knows much about the healing powers of binaural beats says that when we listen to these sounds, our brain waves get altered, and our bodies follow suit. This, in turn, promotes healing and well-being, enhances alertness and improve sleep. “Christian priests had insights to the therapeutic powers of sounds like the ancient Solfeggio scales. Christian choir music like the Gregorian chants, when sung in the correct acoustic environment, has the power to uplift the mood and promote healing in the body,” says the psychologist.
Are there limitations to binaural therapy?
As effective as it is, binaural beats cannot perform miracles. Can it help cure depression? “For the therapy to work, we need to first identify the cause of the problem. For example, if a person is depressed due to bankruptcy or financial problems, no amount of binaural therapy can bring him out of his state. It will be like treating the symptoms and keeping the root problem intact,” says the psychologist.
How to start listening to binaural beats?
There are many samples of binaural audio online. A simple search on YouTube will give you many hits for concentration, depression, creativity and even lucid dreaming. So will simply listening to these sounds on give us these amazing benefits? It’s a little complicated says psychologist Sankulkar.
“The benefit of the beats should be experienced in the right environment in the acoustic form, not through an electronic medium in the middle of a traffic signal,” she says. “Even in Indian classical music, certain ragas have to he heard at certain times of the day to receive its best benefits. That way even binaural beats also have to be experienced in the right environment.”
There are no real rules to listening to binaural beats but here are some ways in which you could use optimise them.
- To start, pick a comfortable spot like a park, meditation room or your own house or any place that is devoid of disturbances.
- Keep distractions like the cell phone away or put it in a flight mode.
- Be mindful of your surroundings and yourself.
- Sit in padmasana or in any pose with your back erect.
- Listen to the right frequency for the intended effect.
- So use good quality headphones.
- Adjust the volume accordingly.
- People with epilepsy and pregnant women should be wary of using binaural audio.
- Children should be made to listen to it at their own will and not forced. Only if they receive it well, will they feel the benefits.
- Don’t give yourself a headache by overdoing it; listen to the beats in moderation.
- Here is a sample you could try. Just make sure you listen to it in a relaxed environment with a good pair of earphones.