Binaural beats is a term describing a fascinating process that takes place in the brain when our ears are presented with a certain kind of audio stimulus. These measured changes in the brain have led scientists and researchers to discover how to use sound to alter our brain waves; a method that provides an opportunity to entrance, relax, stimulate, or concentrate our brains, depending on which frequencies we use. This brain entrainment technology is used by entrepreneurs, meditators, and consciousness hackers alike to harness the power of altered brainwave states in order achieve certain desired results.
Binaural beats were discovered in 1839 by physicist Heinrich Willhelm Dove. Dove discovered that when signals of two different frequencies are presented separately, with one to each ear, your brain detects the phase differences between these two signals, and integrates them by producing the sensation of a third “beat”. This third frequency is what is called the “binaural beat”, and it is equal to the difference of the two frequencies being presented in each ear. For example, if the left ear is being presented with 105 Hz, and the right is being presented with 110 Hz, the binaural beat would be 5 Hz, which is the exact difference between the two.
Catching the wave: What different binaural beats do for your brain
The exact Hz of the binaural beat is an important factor in determining the overall outcome of the experience. The highest vibrating brain wave is the gamma wave (40-70Hz). People who experience high gamma activity in their brains are often linked to having high IQ, being especially compassionate, happy, intelligent and tend to have strong memories. Neuroscientists believe that gamma waves are able to link information from all parts of the brain. Some of the benefits of increased gamma ray production are increased memory, increased sensory perception, increased focus and processing speed, and feelings of compassion and happiness. People using binaural beats to achieve increased gamma activity are often aiming for heightened intelligence and peak performance states.
A binaural beat between 13 and 39 Hz will incite the brain to produce more beta waves, which are associated with focus and concentration, logic, mental effort, as well as paranoia and sometimes fear. Beta waves are beneficial when you want to increase the performance quality of a task that requires conscious effort and thinking. These are the most common waves experienced in our day to day lives. While we can thank beta for being the primary brain wave that helps us to perform basic activities, learn new information, and even produce witty jokes, it can also be responsible for what meditation teachers call “the monkey mind”, resulting in anxiety and stress. That’s why it’s important to experience a variety of different brainwave states for optimal wellbeing and wholeness. Binaural beats assist us in producing a wider array of brainwave states so that we can more easily shift out of stuck or anxious states into more preferred states such as tranquility or happiness.
Take alpha waves, for instance. These wonderful brain waves produce relaxation, help us sleep, and stimulate creative functions. Alpha waves (7-13 Hz) are just below beta, producing a more relaxed yet still active brainwave state. While beta waves require conscious mental effort, alpha waves produce more of a zen-like state, wherein the subconscious can more naturally perform the task or solve the problem. Alpha tends to be associated with creativity, whereas beta tends to be more logic oriented. Keep in mind that there are degrees within all of the different brain wave categories, so a lower alpha wave will produce a more dreamy, relaxed quality, and a higher alpha wave will still allow you to study, problem-solve, learn and create, only it will do so from a more relaxed and focused state.
Then there are the lowest levels of brainwave activity, the theta and delta states. Theta waves (4-7 Hz) are produced in deep meditation, relaxation and in NREM sleep. Using binaural beats to help produce a theta wave brain state is incredibly beneficial in helping people to reduce cortisol and hence stress levels, improve their memory, produce lucid dream states, and achieve inner calm and tranquility through meditation. Scientists also say that theta waves can increase your motor skills, since in such deep relaxation states the brain has a chance to restore and upgrade itself. A similar effect takes place at an even lower brainwave state, the delta wave (.5 – 4 Hz). In this brainwave state it is extremely difficult to stay awake. Most people only experience delta in deep dreamless sleep, and for this reason it remains somewhat mysterious. It is difficult for people to report what they actually experience at this brainwave state, since they are mostly unconscious. Interestingly, these are the most common waves produced by infants, and by our brains just before we die. Some say this can help us tune into “collective unconscious”. It’s also linked with DHEA, serotonin, and human growth hormone.
Are binaural beats actually effective?
Research is showing that binaural beats are an effective therapeutic tool. Dr. Vincent Giampiana, president of American Board of Anti-Aging Medicine said in the New England Journal of Medicine that binaural beats dramatically effects the production of three important hormones that are directly linked to longevity, cortisol, DHEA, and melatonin. Studies demonstrate that those who consistently use binaural beats display major decreases in the stress hormone cortisol, while increases in memory retention and cognitive abilities are shown. With all of the studies and personal reports showing the benefits of binaural beats, it is no wonder that individuals are using this tool to achieve peak performance states, deep relaxation and concentration, and/or physical healing and wellbeing.