Last Updated on September 13, 2020
Some people scoff at the perceived effects of binaural beats, calling it a pseudoscience. Others swear that it has a special effect on the brain which changed their life for the better. Perhaps you’ve tried listening to them yourself, but where did they start and what can really be gained from them?
A Brief Background on Binaural Beats
Discovered in 1839 by Prussian physicist Heinrich Wilhelm Dove, binaural beats aren’t novel pieces of technology.
First thought of as a supplement to the monaural beat, it was eventually discovered that when the brain detects signals from two different frequencies, the brain tries to reconcile the difference between the two frequencies and ends up creating a third signal, or a binaural beat. This binaural beat is the result of the difference between the two frequencies.
Gerald Oster first perceived them as a useful diagnostic tool over thirty years ago. Different people perceive and respond to these beats differently. However, it should be noted that Oster never mentions “brainwaves” or brain entrainment as a function of binaural beats.
Binaural beats are considered as auditory illusions. In order for them to work, the frequencies should be less than 1000 Hz, with the difference between the two tones not being more than 30 Hz.
Picture this: the left ear is tuned to 300 Hz while the right is presented with a 310 Hz frequency. The resulting binaural beat has a 10 Hz frequency, which is what the brain “hears.”
Introducing your brain to binaural beats will cause it to resonate with that particular beat. For example, if you’re tuned into Beta Beats at 14-30 Hz, which are associated with focus and problem-solving, then your brain is stimulated to “act” in the Beta range. Beta brainwaves are what you normally experience when you’re awake and have full energy.
The Five Wave Patterns
There are five binaural beats, each associated with different properties:
1. Delta (0.1 Hz – 4 Hz)
First identified during the 1900s after the electroencephalogram was invented, delta beats are associated with deep, restorative sleep (Stage 3 and REM) and relaxation, along with pain relief and healing. During Stage 3 or deep sleep, your brain activity is mostly comprised of delta waves.
When used during meditation, this wave pattern can aid in healing for both emotional and physical states.
A study used binaural beats to help decrease acute anxiety in pre-operative patients.
If you want to supplement delta waves, you might want to try adopting a ketogenic diet, which is high in fat and low in carbs. If you want to maintain your brain’s delta wave function, it’s best to avoid abusing alcohol, drugs, and other chemical substances.
2. Theta (4 Hz – 8 Hz)
Generally associated with deep relaxation, focus, and creativity, theta waves also induce vivid visualizations and can be used to induce a meditative state, according to a study. Furthermore, according to the same study, they are also associated with alertness, attention, and working memory.
Theta waves may have a positive impact on your psychological well-being. These waves are known for their stress-relieving properties and their capacity to increase mental clarity brought about by a more relaxed, less stressed brain.
Theta waves are also used by many individuals who want to gain access into their subconscious mind.
3. Alpha (8 Hz – 14 Hz)
Bid goodbye to the day’s stresses by listening to alpha waves. Associated with deep relaxation, alpha waves also promote cognitive functions such as memory, learning, and concentration.
Give your creativity a boost by listening to alpha waves or by doing aerobic exercise.
Given that alpha waves promote a relaxed mental state, these come in handy for alleviating anxiety and lessening depression. Alpha waves also reduce perceptions of chronic pain.
To boost your brain’s alpha wave production, you can get into mindfulness training and meditation.
4. Beta (14 Hz – 30 Hz)
If you’re either working or studying and you’re genuinely paying attention to what you’re doing, chances are your beta brainwaves are up and running.
Beta waves are associated with the waking consciousness, or your state of mind while you’re awake. It is also involved in heightening your sense of alertness, focus, and critical reasoning.
There are three classifications of beta waves:
- Low Beta
Approximately 12 Hz-15 Hz, this is the state where your mind is totally focused.
- Mid-range Beta
At 15 Hz-20 Hz, your brain moves faster, in a pattern bordering on anxiety.
- High Beta
High Beta, which is at 20 Hz to 35 or 40 Hz, is when your brain experiences stress and anxiety.
If you want to work on improving your concentration, language, and reading skills, try listening to beta waves. If you’re struggling with a lack of motivation when studying, beta waves may be able to give you that much-needed spark.
Beta waves are the human brain’s normal state. You might want to increase your beta waves if you need to have more focus on what you’re doing, but having too much beta waves has its downsides. If you’re too stressed, you might have too many beta waves, in which case, you need to turn to alpha and/or theta waves to counter stress.
5. Gamma (30 Hz – 100 Hz)
Familiar with the concept of flow state, when you feel most “in the zone?” When you’re in the flow state, everything just melts away and you find, later on, that you become more productive. That’s one association with gamma waves, the highest frequency known. Another is promoting insights, heightened consciousness, and spiritual awakening.
Described in a study as “fast oscillations”, gamma activity is linked to working memory and long-term memory. We all have gamma waves, but some individuals produce lower amounts, which may lead to poor memory and learning difficulties. Some mental processes may also be impaired.
One of the perceived benefits of gamma waves is the improvement of some cognitive functions such as memory and awareness. They can improve memory recall and sensory perception. Gamma waves may also delay the onset of certain medical conditions like Alzheimer’s disease.
Perceived Benefits of Binaural Beats
In general, binaural beats are said to have the following benefits:
- Reduce stress and anxiety levels
- Boost creativity
- Promote better sleep
- Improve moods
- Improve alertness and attention spans
- Offering pain relief
- Help with improving meditation
When experimenting with binaural beats, you only need the audio file and a pair of earphones. Find which of the five brainwaves would match your desired state of mind. Do you want to feel relaxed? Go for delta waves for deep sleep and relaxation. Feeling stuck in a creative rut? Listening to theta waves might help fuel your creativity.
While binaural beats may not be considered as a cure-all, they do benefit some more than others. Reportedly, binaural beats have a positive impact on individuals who listen to them regularly. Benefits include an improvement on mood, cognitive functions, and creativity, to name a few. Listening to binaural beats is risk-free, so why not give it a try?