How Binaural Beats Work

Some listeners define binaural beats as magical sounds that wash away all tensions of the mind, some claim they are special sounds meant to induce sleep, and some passionately state they orchestrate dramatic changes in the mind.

Which voice speaks the truth here? Or are these descriptions similar to those given by the three blind men when they were asked to describe the proverbial elephant?

There are as many descriptions of binaural beats as there are listeners. While not incorrect, each one here fails to define binaural beats completely.

Yes, binaural beats are special sounds that relieve tension, promote sleep, and induce changes in the mind, but there is a lot more to them than just these facts. Read on to know the complete and accurate definition of binaural beats, how they work, and tips for extracting the optimum benefit from them.

What are binaural beats?

Wikipedia defines binaural as “having or relating to two ears”. Binaural beats, sometimes also called as binaural tones, is a sensation of sound produced in the brain when two different tones of similar frequencies are played in each ear.

A full and clear understanding of binaural beats can only be gained if you familiarize yourself with the following facts:

  • Binaural beats are produced in the mind. That is, they don’t exist on a real level. When two sounds of similar frequencies are played, one to each ear, the brain merges the two tones to produce a sensation of a third sound, called a binaural beat.
  • Binaural beats are produced only when two coherent sounds of similar frequencies are played in each ear. If sounds of same frequency are presented to both ears, binaural beats will not be produced.
  • The frequency of binaural beats is equal to the difference between the frequencies of two tones played separately to each ear. For example, if the right ear is exposed to sound waves of 510 Hz and the left ear to 503 Hz, the frequency of binaural beats will be 7 Hz (510 Hz – 503 Hz)
  • Binaural beats are not real sounds. They are apparent sounds. In other words, humans cannot actually hear binaural beats.
  • The difference in the frequency of two tones should not be more than 30 Hz. When the difference between two tones is more than 30 Hz, they are going to be heard separately.

How Do Binaural Beats Work?

Binaural beats work on a principle called Frequency Following Response, which NeuroActivator describes as:

When the brain is exposed to a repeating and consistent stimulus, such as sound waves, it alters its electrical charges to match the frequency of the stimulus.

For example, if the binaural beat is 8 Hz, brainwave frequency changes to 8 Hz.

How Do Binaural Beats Enhance The Mind?

Different mind-states are associated with different frequency ranges. For instance, brainwave frequency during normal waking consciousness is different from a mind-state of deep relaxation.

Previously, we saw how special sound waves can alter brainwave frequency. When one views this fact in the light of the above information regarding different mind-states being associated with different brainwave frequency range, one can easily understand how brainwaves can be used to induce a desired mind state. Here’s an example that explains the concept better:

Brainwave frequency of close to 30 Hz is usually linked with stress and restlessness, while brainwave activity of 7.5-12 Hz defines a deep relaxing state. By listening to binaural beats in range 7.5-12 Hz, you can, within minutes, change your highly-active mind-state to a relaxed one.

Various companies, such as i Doser, offer beats that are supposed to give different mental states to the listener.

There are four different mental states, and by using binaural beats can enter any mental state at will.

Four Mental States

  • Beta (12 to 30 Hz) – Brainwaves in this range are associated with normal waking consciousness as well as a heightened state of critical reasoning, logic, and alertness. We spend our waking hours at Beta. While important for daily functioning, higher Beta levels can lead to restlessness, anxiety, and stress.
  • Alpha (7.5 to 12 Hz) – Associated with deep relaxation, Alpha state is optimal for programming the mind for success. This state is characterized by heightened concentration, learning, memory, visualization, and imagination.
  • Theta (4 to 7.5 Hz) – Realm of the subconscious mind, Theta brain waves are noticed during REM (rapid eye movement) state of sleep—the state in which we dream—and deep meditation. The mind’s most deep-rooted programs, exceptional insights, profound creativity, vivid visualization, and great inspiration are all at Theta.
  • Delta (0.5 to 4Hz) – This frequency range is linked to deep, dreamless sleep and very deep meditation. Delta state is the realm of the unconscious mind. In this state, you can receive information that otherwise is beyond reach.

How to Use Binaural Beats to Get the Optimum Benefits

Here are some tips to help you derive the maximum benefits from binaural beats:

  • Listen to them at a time when and in a place where you are not likely to be disturbed
  • Do not listen to them while driving or while doing tasks that require full attention
  • Listen to them with a clear and relaxed mind
  • Give yourself ample listening time! The human mind requires about 7 mins to mimic or follow the audio stimulus, so ensure that a listening session lasts, at least, 20-30 mins
  • Finally, and most importantly, use stereo headphones