Binaural beats – what are they and do they actually work?

Some people swear by them, while others think it’s all just a waste of time and money. We’re talking about binaural beats, a mind illusion that is no doubt fascinating, an illusion we hardly know anything about. Despite all the claims people make about it, that is. Let’s take a look at what this illusion is, what it’s used for, and if you could benefit from it!

Tricking the brain

Have you ever stared at an optical illusion, fascinated that the brain is perceiving something that isn’t actually there? This is what happens with binaural beats. Two different frequencies are played through the different headphones so that your ears hear two slightly different notes.

The two frequencies need to be quite close to each other. What happens is that the brain notices the difference between the two frequencies and starts to hear a third note which has a frequency corresponding to the difference.

If one headphone is playing 440 Hz and another 450 Hz, the brain will start hearing 10Hz as a result. Scientists still have no clue why or how this happens.

Binaural beats used for meditation

Imagine listening to music and becoming more relaxed and productive, getting rid of headaches, and sleeping better… Doesn’t it sound like the perfect meditation technique?

Binaural beats are commonly used as a form of meditation that is supposed to make you calmer and more focused. They are becoming increasingly popular on YouTube and Spotify, and are seen as a self-help tool that anybody can benefit from.

However, there is almost zero scientific research to back up all these claims. A few studies have been done, but they didn’t include enough people. Some of the results have been contradictory as well.

People might reason that it must work, otherwise why use it? It’s impossible to say at this stage whether it does actually work or if it’s the placebo effect that is playing tricks on us.

One way it probably does work is that it makes you take some time off to relax and do nothing. One therapist recommending using binaural beats suggests that you listen to them for 35 – 40 minutes daily over the course of a month. But it’s hard to tell if it’s actually the binaural beats that are making you less stressed, or if it’s the fact that you are relaxing for half an hour a day.

If this actually works, there’s a chance it has a different effect on different people. Men and women seem to hear binaural beats differently, and it can even vary during a woman’s menstrual cycle.

Gamma Waves

These waves have a frequency of 40Hz – 100Hz which makes them the highest kind of binaural beats. Gamma waves are associated with learning. Apparently, people with learning difficulties lack these waves to a certain extent.

Beta Waves

Beta waves have a frequency of 12Hz – 40Hz. They help us solve problems, write, and do many other things. They can seemingly be triggered by caffeine. Too many beta waves are associated with anxiety. Meanwhile, too few of these waves seemingly cause depression.

Alpha Waves

Alpha waves have a frequency of 8Hz – 12Hz. When they are at an optimal level, we feel relaxed. Some drugs increase the amount of alpha waves, including antidepressants.

Theta Waves

Theta waves have a frequency of 4Hz – 8Hz. They are associated with sleep and dreaming. Basically, they are very helpful to the brain during the night. However, too many of them during the day causes depression.

Delta Waves

Delta waves have a frequency of about 0Hz – 4Hz. They are generated when you are in deep slumber. Children have more of them as opposed to adults.

The idea that you can change your brainwaves to get better sleep, learn more, become more productive and happier is definitely fascinating. But the truth is, we don’t really know if binaural beats can achieve this. We look forward to the day when science sheds some light on this matter!

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