The Science-Based Benefits of Listening to Binaural Beats

The Science-Based Benefits of Listening to Binaural Beats

Learn about how binaural beats work and how you can use them for greater well-being.

Binaural beats are what happens when two equally loud sounds, at just slightly different frequencies (or tones), are presented at the same time, one sound to each ear (Goodin et al., 2012).
So how does this affect your brain? There are brain waves of varying frequencies occurring in your brain at all times. When two tones that are close in frequency are presented
simultaneously to you, as happens with binaural beats, then waves of a certain frequency – the distance in frequency between the two tones, to be exact – are generated. To use our example, hearing tones at 300 Hz and 310 Hz will generate waves with a frequency of 10 Hz.
These waves, being the same frequency as some of the brain waves already happening in your head, can influence how you think and feel (Goodin et al., 2012). Since certain frequencies of brain waves are associated with certain states of mind and emotions, listening to binaural beats
may cause our brains to shift toward those states of mind and emotions.

“No other sound can match the healing power of the sounds of nature.”
― Michael Bassey Johnson

The scientific evidence thus far suggests that binaural beats have immediate effects, even if you have never been exposed to them before (Mahajan et al., 2021). But how do you know which binaural beats to listen to when? Certain frequencies can calm you down, while others can invigorate you and help you focus. Here is a quick summary of the four brainwave frequencies and their ranges – this can help you know what kind of effect each you might get from a particular binaural beats video or audio track.

1) Delta waves. Waves that occur most prominently when you are in a state of deep sleep. Their frequency ranges from 1.5 Hz to 4 Hz.

2) Theta waves. These waves occur when you are transitioning into or out of a state of rest or meditation, so listening to them may help you start meditating or fall asleep. Their frequency ranges from 5 Hz to 7 Hz.

3) Alpha waves. Ranging from 8 Hz to 12 Hz, alpha waves characterize the times when you are both alert and also relaxed, such as during meditation or a contemplative activity like yoga.

4) Beta waves. These waves are the fastest brainwaves, ranging from 13 Hz to 40 Hz. Listening to them can help with cognitive functioning, as they are the brainwaves that are most involved in your executive functioning.

Binaural Beats for Well-Being

Sleep

Binaural beats may have an effect on our sleep patterns. Binaural beats can be generated that have a frequency similar to that of delta waves, the brain waves that are most prominent when we sleep deeply. They can also be used to mimic theta waves, which are associated with lighter sleep stages. Although there is more research on other outcomes of binaural beats, there is early data to suggest that listening to certain kinds of binaural beats can improve people’s ability to fall asleep, as well as their sleep quality (Dabiri et al., 2022; Lee et al., 2019).

Focus

There are now several studies indicating that listening to binaural beats can improve one’s focus (Basu & Banerjee, 2022). For example, one study found that people who listened to binaural beats for fifteen minutes experienced less mind wandering afterward than people who did not listen to the beats (Kirk et al., 2019). Binaural beats can also induce more cognitive flexibility (Hommel et al., 2016), more sustained attention, and improved performance on memory tasks (Basu & Banerjee, 2022).

Anxiety

It is also well-established that binaural beats can help reduce people’s anxiety (Garcia-Argibay et al., 2019). Specifically, listening to theta or delta-level frequencies in binaural beats seems to lessen the anxiety that people feel. This effect seems to increase the longer one listens to binaural beats – up to a point – and can be experienced in one’s first exposure to binaural beats (Garcia-Argibay et al., 2019).

In Sum

Binaural beats are not just another fad, something people claim can change their lives with little evidence to prove it. While more research remains to be done, it is clear from what already exists that listening to binaural beats, whether on their own or within a musical track (Garcia-Argibay et al., 2019), can positively affect your thinking and mood.

That said, keep in mind that which kind of beats you listen to, how long you listen to them, and the situation you are in are all important pieces of the puzzle. There is no clear scientific consensus about which beats to listen to when, whether listening longer is always better, or how loud or soft to listen to these beats. Consider them a low-stakes option for gently changing your mood or improving your ability to focus, one you can try on your own without a medical professional, but also not something to expect to radically transform your life.

References

● Basu, S., & Banerjee, B. (2022). Potential of binaural beats intervention for improving memory and attention: insights from meta-analysis and systematic review. Psychological Research, 1-13.

● Dabiri, R., Monazzam Esmaielpour, M. R., Salmani Nodoushan, M., Khaneshenas, F., & Zakerian, S. A. (2022). The effect of auditory stimulation using delta binaural beat for a better sleep and post-sleep mood: A pilot study. Digital Health, 8, 20552076221102243.

● Garcia-Argibay, M., Santed, M. A., & Reales, J. M. (2019). Efficacy of binaural auditory beats in cognition, anxiety, and pain perception: a meta-analysis. Psychological Research, 83(2), 357-372.

● Goodin, P., Ciorciari, J., Baker, K., Carry, A.-M., Harper, M., & Kaufman, J. (2012). A high- density EEG investigation into steady state binaural beat stimulation. PLoS One,

7(4), 1-9.

● Hommel, B., Sellaro, R., Fischer, R., Borg, S., & Colzato, L. S. (2016). High-frequency binaural beats increase cognitive flexibility: evidence from dual-task crosstalk. Frontiers in Psychology, 1287.

● Kirk, U., Wieghorst, A., Nielsen, C. M., & Staiano, W. (2019). On-the-spot binaural beats and mindfulness reduces behavioral markers of mind wandering. Journal of Cognitive Enhancement, 3(2), 186-192.