New research shows that anxiety can be significantly reduced in patients undergoing cataract surgery when they listen to a certain type of audio therapy known as binaural beats.
The study, conducted in Thailand, is the first of its kind.Binaural beat audio therapy consists of two tones that are each pitched at a specific, slightly different frequency, with each tone delivered to a separate ear through headphones. The therapy triggers alpha-frequency brainwaves, which are associated with relaxation and a lower perception of fear and pain.
In this study, binaural beats were combined with soft music and nature soundscapes of the ocean and forest to produce a relaxing experience for patients.
The study, which involved 141 patients, included three groups: the first group listened to binaural beats music, the second listened to music only, and the third was a control group that heard the usual sounds in a surgical room. Each group consisted of 47 patients, and was matched for age, gender, cataract type, and other health factors.
All patients were assessed before and after surgery using the State-Trait Anxiety scale, a standard test used to diagnose anxiety. Their heart rate and blood pressure were also measured before and after surgery.
The results showed that patients who listened to the binaural beats-music mix before, during and after the surgery showed less anxiety and a slower heart rate, compared with the control group patients. Systolic blood pressure was also greatly reduced in both the binaural beats-music mix patient group and the second group who listened to music only.
The researchers focused on cataract surgery because it is often conducted under local anesthesia, with the patient awake and often exposed to unfamiliar, potentially upsetting sounds such as surgical machinery and conversations between the surgeon and staff.
Although the surgery is highly effective and safe, patients often worry about whether their vision and quality of life will be improved or reduced after the surgery.
“As populations in many parts of the world grow older, it’s increasingly important for ophthalmologists to explore new ways to improve patient care for seniors,” said Pornpattana Vichitvejpaisal, M.D., of Chiang Mai University, Thailand, who led the research.
“Our study shows significant emotional and physiological benefits from adding binaural beats to music therapy for cataract surgery patients. This provides a simple, inexpensive way to improve patients’ health outcomes and satisfaction with their care.”
The research was presented at the 116th Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Ophthalmology.