Binaural beats¬†are the artificial creation of an audible frequency, that is not naturally in the range of human hearing, by using the difference between two other frequencies. The two frequencies are played into either ear, and the difference is perceived by the brain as a third frequency. Binaural beats are an audio phenomena that are not present in the natural world.
For an example, if you played a pure 500Hz frequency into your left ear, and a 505Hz frequency into your right, this would create a binaural beat frequency of 5Hz. This 5Hz frequency is perceived as a slight increase and decrease of volume inside the head, 5 times a second.
Binaural beats can only be achieved by using stereo headphones, so that each ear can receive the pure frequency, without interference from the other. If the individual sounds do not get played to each ear, and are mixed ‘outside’ of the head, then another audio phenomena occurs: monaural beats. Monaural beats use the same principle, except the ‘beat’ frequency does not occur inside the head; it is already present in the audio.
Binaural beats were first discovered in 1839 by Heinrich Wilhelm Dove, but wasn’t further investigated until the late 20th century. The research by Gerald Oster focused on how some animals might be using¬†binaural beats to pick out specific noises, with brilliant spacial accuracy. After this he considered the impact on humans in medical situations.
Binaural Beats and¬†Brainwave Frequencies
The brain is known to operate at various frequencies, depending on its state. Brainwave entrainment is the process of changing the brain’s operating state by the use of external stimuli, such as binaural beats. It is theorised that using binaural beats can change the brain’s frequency to match that of the binaural beat, and stimulate the brain to change state.¬†As the human hearing can only (at best) listen down to 20Hz, you need to use binaural beats, monaural beats or isochronic¬†tones to change frequency.
Binaural beats could be used, for instance, to entrain the brain to operate at a frequency usually associated with a deep sleep, while the listener is still awake.¬†As the brain slows down its operating frequency to match the binaural beat, it will start to relax and induce an almost meditative state. It has been known for listeners to experience extra-ordinary states; after listening with your eyes closed, you can start to visualise colours and patterns, go into a calming relaxed state, and some have even reported out-of-body experiences.
Using Binaural Beats
A frequency above 30Hz is associated with alertness, concentration and higher cognitive functioning. This might be used before or during tasks which require greater mental awareness, such as problem solving, waking from a sleepy mood or studying. A lower frequency, such as between 1Hz and 15Hz¬†is attributed to sleep, relaxation and meditation. Frequencies in this range can be used to induce a calming state, and might be used to calm nerves before an important event, to enhance a meditation session, or to achieve a higher state of consciousness.
To use¬†binaural beats to entrain your brain you first choose¬†the state you wish to achieve. You can then set your binaural beat frequency in the required range. All you need to do then, is slip on a pair of headphones, and allow your brain to adjust to the new frequency. If you want to relax, simply lie back and close your eyes. If you want to be more alert, you can listen while you work on a task.
Brain entrainment doesn’t happen straight away, it takes a little time for your brain to change frequency. It could take 5 minutes, it could take an hour; it depends on your brain’s starting frequency and the frequency you want to finish at. If you are extremely active and alert, your brain may be at 35Hz – it will take your brain longer to pull down to a meditation frequency of 5Hz than it would if you were already relaxed and your brain was at, say, 15Hz.
Where Can I Find Binaural Beats?
There are many resources to find binaural beats. The optimal way to listen is to use our own Binaural Beats Generator. This allows you to set your exact frequency you want to achieve, and the actual frequency of the sounds. this gives you total control to tailor your binaural beats experience to how you want. Listening to pure binaural beats can be enhanced by adding noises on top of them. This makes it more pleasant to listen to. You can open a new tab in your browser, and play some background noise from YouTube, such as waves crashing on a beach, or rain in a rainforest.
You can also find pre-made binaural beats audio CDs and downloadable MP3s. These vary, and could be simply be a binaural beat set to background sounds, or they could be complex soundscapes that vary the beat over time to help induce different states. There have also been binaural beats CDs designed to simulate the feeling of various drugs.
Along with recreational use such as meditation and lucid-dreaming, binaural beats have been increasingly used over the last few decades in medical practices,¬†for treatment for depression, anxiety, behavioural problems, repressed memories and insomnia. You may find that binaural beats help improve other parts of your life. If you’ve had a great experience with binaural beats, let us know in the comments below.
A word of warning however: binaural beats alter the way your brain works. This means that you shouldn’t do anything whilst listening to binaural beats that you wouldn’t do whilst drunk. This means don’t drive or operate dangerous machinery. This warning is probably not needed, as binaural beats are safe and not instantaneous, but you don’t want to take the risk!