- What Are Binaural Beats?
- Brainwaves and Brainwaves Entrainment
- How Do Binaural Beats Work?
- The Benefits of Binaural Beats
- Advantages of Binaural Beats Over Traditional Meditation
- Binaural Beats and Lucid Dreaming
- Do Binaural Beats Actually Work?
- Trying It Out
- Is There Any Danger in Using Binaural Beats?
- Book Suggestions
What Are Binaural Beats?
Everyone knows that meditation is good for us. It limits stress, calms us and research even suggests that it can make us smarter, happier and healthier. Why, then, isn’t everyone meditating?
It’s obvious when you think about it. Meditating is difficult. Getting the hang of it can take years and mastering it even longer. Most of us simply don’t have the time. It’s for this reason that binaural beats – something hailed as a shortcut to effective meditation – have been such a revelation to many.
Simply put, binaural beats are sounds capable of inducing the same mental state as is experienced during meditation. The science behind the phenomenon was discovered way back in the 19th century (although some claim that ancient societies knew of the power of binaural beats, even if they didn’t understand the science) but it is only fairly recently that it has entered the mainstream as a quick and effective way to relieve stress and relax.
But is it all too good to be true? Does it really work? Could it be dangerous? In the following, we’ll answer all these questions and more.
Brainwaves and Brainwaves Entrainment
There are two things that we need to take a look at before you can understand how binaural beats work: brainwaves and brainwaves entrainment.
In very simplistic terms, brainwaves are a product of the electrical activity of the brain. In different states of consciousness, we produce different brain waves, which can be measured by electroencephalography (EEG).
There are five main brainwave states:
- Delta (below 4 Hz): The lowest frequency, typically experienced during deep sleep.
- Theta (4-8 Hz): Typically experienced when falling asleep or when deeply relaxed.
- Alpha (8-14 Hz): Typically thought of as a state of relaxed wakefulness and the bridge between consciousness and unconsciousness.
- Beta (14-30 Hz): The state that most people spend their days in – associated with alertness, as well as stress and anxiety.
- Gamma (30-100 Hz): The highest frequency, typically associated with feelings of peacefulness, happiness and sharpened senses.
We go in and out of different brainwave states naturally, yet it is also possible to manipulate our brains into entering different states through meditation or – as we’ll expand upon later on – binaural beats.
Brainwave entrainment is anything that causes your brainwaves to synchronize with an external stimulus, such as music or a vibration. It is also sometimes called the flicker-response, a name that comes from the mildly hypnotic effect of a flickering campfire or flame.
Brainwave entrainment is a natural phenomenon of the brain, first stumbled upon by a Dutch scientist who noticed that the ticking of pendulum clocks would always synchronize with each other, even when he purposefully put them out of time. 
How Do Binaural Beats Work?
Binaural beats are the most popular method of utilizing brainwave entrainment.
Binaural beats are made up of two tones, played simultaneously through stereo headphones. The tones are marginally different, but, through the process of brainwave entrainment, they are naturally synchronized into one beat in our heads. This new tone is the binaural beat.
By using binaural beats, it’s possible to entrain the brain into a different, usually lower, frequency. This is because the binaural beat is always the difference between the two frequencies. For example, if a 400 Hz beat is played into one ear, and a 410 Hz beat into the other, the brain will automatically entrain to 10 Hz, in the Alpha frequency.
Using this technique, many people are able to enter a low-frequency mental state, similar to that experienced during traditional meditation (but without all the practice). Different binaural beats are designed to entrain the brain to different frequencies, with which one you choose dependent on what you’re trying to achieve. For example, if you’re trying to lucid dream (more on this later) you may want a beat with a Theta frequency, whereas if you simply want to relax, an Alpha beat may be preferable.
The practice of using binaural beats is sometimes also referred to as hemispheric synchronization (Hemi-Sync). The term was coined by Robert Monroe, a binaural beat pioneer, who was among the first to realize the positive effects binaural beats could have on the brain.
The Benefits of Binaural Beats
Binaural beats will generally affect different people in different ways. Some of the most commonly touted benefits of binaural beats, however, include:
- Increased relaxation
- Better sleep
- Increased focus and concentration
- Stress relief
- Reduced anxiety
Advantages of Binaural Beats Over Traditional Meditation
Meditation can help us block out unwanted mental-chatter, focus, relieve stress and generally relax us. The only problem is, mastering meditative techniques can take years. Time that most of us simply don’t have.
This is the key advantage that binaural beats have over traditional meditation. It’s as easy as putting on some headphones, pressing play, sitting back and relaxing.
Binaural Beats and Lucid Dreaming
Although research into the area is patchy, it is thought by some that binaural beats can be effective in bringing about a state of lucid dreaming.
Lucid dreaming – when one is aware of being within a dream – is generally associated with the Theta brain frequency, meaning that by listening to a binaural beat designed to induce this state, lucid dreaming becomes more likely.
Do Binaural Beats Actually Work?
Opinions on the effectiveness of binaural beats vary and relatively few scientific studies have taken place into the area. The picture is muddied further by the fact that much of the available information regarding binaural beats has been written or commissioned by companies in the binaural beats field, who clearly have vested interests.
However, one of the few scientific studies to have taken place, A Comprehensive Review of the Psychological Effects of Brainwave Entrainment, concluded that brainwave entrainment (and, therefore, binaural beats) should be considered an effective therapeutic tool. There are also many online testimonials on the use of binaural beats, many of which are keen to emphasize the effectiveness of the technique.
Trying It Out
To fully understand binaural beats, you’re going to have to try it out for yourself. Search Google or YouTube and you’ll quickly find some free tracks, perfect for starting out. Just remember to use stereo headphones and be aware that you’ll probably have to listen for at least a few minutes to feel any effects.
Is There Any Danger in Using Binaural Beats?
For most people, the use of binaural beats is perfectly safe. However, people with certain cardiac or neurological disorders should use caution.
People with the following conditions should seek medical advice before beginning to use binaural beats:
- Epilepsy: The auditory stimulation of binaural beats may cause seizures in individuals with a history of epilepsy, meaning there use is generally discouraged.
- Heart problems: Binaural beats can alter the rhythm of the heart, something that can be dangerous to those with heart problems, especially those with irregular heartbeats.
It is also generally advised that people driving or operating heavy machinery should be discouraged from listening to binaural beats due to the focus and attention required to safely perform these tasks.
Binaural Beats Books
- Brainwave Entrainment Plus: Make Binaural Beats & Isochronic Tones On Your Pc for Hypnosis, Relaxation, Meditation & More! by Martin Woodward
- Harnessing the Five States of Your Brain: Learn How to Create and Use Binaural Beats to Enhance all Aspects of your Life by Benjamin East
- Binaural Beats - A Beginner’s Guide by Dr.James Mathews
- How To Use Meditation, Positive Affirmations and Binaural Beats To Quickly Relieve Stress, Anxiety and Be Happier by Anthony Dillon
- Creating Binaural Beats Using Gnaural and Audacity by Mark Crossthwaite
NCBI. “A comprehensive review of the psychological effects of brainwave entrainment.” 2008. Accessed October 30, 2017. ↩