Lets Talk About Sound and Brainwaves by OTO Sound Therapist Michelle Cade
At the start of one of OTO Sound therapist, Michelle Cade’s soundbaths, you might notice a low rumbling sound – that sound is from binaural beats, and this combination of sound has a great healing power over the body. As we’ve discussed before, sound & CBD work hand in hand, as both promote a healing reaction in the body, and the use of binaural beats is one of the most common. We spoke to Michelle about what binaural beats are, and how can we use them to change our state.
Binaural means ‘having or relating to two ears’ and the concept of binaural beats is simple. It means hearing two tones, of slightly different frequencies, sent simultaneously to the left and right ears through headphones.
Hearing these binaural beats effectively synchronises and entrains your brainwaves to enhance a specific pattern. It’s a direct physiological response - upon hearing the two tones, your brain perceives a third tone based on the mathematical difference between their frequencies.
Your brain then follows along and produces brain waves at the new frequency. The technical term for this process is ‘frequency following response'. We can use this phenomenon to control the state of our brain waves, tuning them like a radio to dial into the effect that we’re looking for.
What are the benefits of modifying our brainwaves?
In general, we are accustomed to being in the Beta brain rhythm (14-30hz, or cycles per second). We are in a Beta brainwave pattern when we are consciously alert. It’s the default and dominant brainwave for most of us, most of the time. We are in Beta when we feel agitated, tense, hurried, pressured, afraid and stressed.
When we alter our brain rhythm to Alpha (8-13Hz), we are slowing our brainwaves down. This adjustment puts us in the ideal brain state for optimal performance and super learning. Some forms of meditation, relaxation exercises, and activities that enable a sense of calm, also naturally create this Alpha state.
According to neuroscientists, the effect of decreasing the brain rhythm from Beta to Alpha via deep relaxation techniques, sound therapy and the use of binaural beats entrainment, changes the levels of certain beneficial brain chemicals.
Studies show that Alpha states significantly increase the release of melatonin, beta-endorphin, norepinephrine and dopamine. These naturally occurring chemicals are linked to feelings of expanded mental clarity and generate an internal environment for new learning and accessing previously learned information. This positive effect lasts for hours and even days.
The creation of binaural beats music has only been possible through technological advancement in the last 100 years or so. But what most people don't realise is that the use of this natural science dates back thousands of years. Ancient cultures were aware of the mental effects of sound repetition long before modern science was able to explain the process. They didn't refer to this science as binaural beats, but what they did know was that consistent, rhythmic sound had extremely powerful healing and spiritual benefits.
Scientist Melinda Maxfield has conducted research on drumbeats used during ancient rituals. She found that performers generally beat at a steady rate of 4.5 beats per second. This consistent pulse induces a trance-like state for the tribe, due to the brain shifting into a 4.5 beats-per-second brainwave frequency, which is a low Theta brainwave state (4-7Hz).
Through the use of repetitive drumming and chanting, Tibetan monks, Native American shamans, Hindu healers and master Yogis have been able to induce specific brainwave states for transcending consciousness, healing, concentration and spiritual growth.
Luckily, you don’t need a drumming shaman to help you reach this beneficial state. All you have to do to take advantage of this knowledge and try out binaural beats for yourself is put on a pair of headphones, relax and press play. It's that easy. We recommend listening to at least 12 minutes a day.
You can listen to Michelle’s binaural beat meditations on band camp.