Binaural beats are subtle sounds or acoustic beats that affect your brain waves. Listening to binaural beats may help foster calm, creativity, and concentration.

Give me a beat …

If the idea of kicking back with some headphones and listening to a cool beat sounds right up your alley, you might want to give binaural beats a try.

Binaural beats are sounds that some believe introduce a new frequency to your brain. They’ve been called an “illusion” or “otherworldly,” but research shows they may actually affect how you think and feel.

Though binaural beat therapy isn’t a medical standard of care, some research suggests it may help with things like:

  • stress
  • anxiety
  • sleep
  • pain management
  • improving focus and concentration
  • promoting creativity

Read on to learn about how binaural beats work and how you can use them.

Binaural beats are subtle sounds or acoustic beats. Binaural means “relating to both ears.”

When you simultaneously listen to two tones with slightly different frequencies in each ear, your brain interprets a so-called “beat” with a new frequency.

As your brain adjusts to this new frequency, it changes your brain waves. Some experts believe this may impact certain brain functions that control the way we think and feel.

What the research says

Researchers are still studying the potential benefits of binaural beats. While most studies have been small with inconclusive data, there’s evidence to suggest that binaural beats may boast certain health benefits.

  • A 2019 study suggests binaural beats could induce the brain signals required for sleep, potentially increasing the quality of sleep.
  • According to a 2020 study, binaural beats may be helpful in enhancing training and learning.
  • Another 2020 study suggests binaural beats may positively affect anxiety, though larger-scale studies are needed to confirm its findings.

Your brain has several different waves, each associated with specific types of thinking or mental states. Generally, the lower-frequency waves are linked to relaxation and better sleep, while higher frequencies are tied to greater focus and problem-solving.

The 5 types of brain waves, measured in Hertz (Hz) are:

  • delta (1 – 4 Hz): deep sleep, pain relief, healing
  • theta (4 – 8 Hz): meditation, deep relaxation, creativity
  • alpha (8 -13 Hz): stress reduction, positive thinking, fast learning
  • beta (14 – 30 Hz): increased concentration and alertness, problem-solving
  • gamma (30 Hz and above): high-level cognition, memory recall, peak awareness

Binaural beats are said to have similar effects to that of meditation practice. Essentially, you’re attuning your mind to reach a certain state. This is known as brain wave entrainment technology. It works by creating the same frequency and brain wave pattern experienced during meditation.

More research is needed to uncover the full benefits of binaural beats. But similar to the benefits of meditation, potential binaural beats benefits include:

  • reduced anxiety and stress
  • improved mood
  • increased focus and concentration
  • increased creativity
  • improved sleep habits
  • better pain management

If you’d like to experiment with binaural beats, there are a number of online audio files you can download or listen to on YouTube, Spotify, or Apple Music. Just search for whatever frequency you would like to try, such as “binaural beats delta.”

To listen to binaural beats, find a comfortable place free of distractions. You may want to close your eyes. You must use headphones or earbuds for binaural beats to work.

The listening time is up to you. You can vary the length to find what works best. In general, using binaural beats for 30 minutes a day can help entrain your brain to reach the desired mental state.

Though more research is needed on the full effects of binaural beats, there are users and some science that points to a host of mental health benefits, from fighting stress and depression to boosting focus and creativity.

If you’d like to try binaural beats to help with a certain condition, talk with your doctor about the potential benefits, as well as any possible side effects.