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Binaural Beats

Binaural beats are a form of auditory beat stimulation in which two tones, varying slightly in frequency, are played into each ear, producing an auditory illusion of a third tone. Binaural beats of certain frequencies have a modest, positive effect on memory, attention, pain perception, and relaxation.

Our evidence-based analysis on binaural beats features 41 unique references to scientific papers.

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Summary of Binaural Beats

Primary information, health benefits, side effects, usage, and other important details

What are binaural beats?

Binaural beats are a form of “auditory beat stimulation”, which includes both monaural and binaural beats.[1] They can probably alter the abundance of certain brainwaves, which may improve or alter mental states to make users better at memorization, paying attention, or relaxing.

The beats are formed by playing two tones with slightly different frequencies in unison. A monaural beat is formed when these tones are combined before they are played through a speaker, whereas a binaural beat is formed when each tone is played separately into each ear, producing a perceived third tone that is equal to the difference between the two base tones. For example, an individual may have a 240 Hz tone played in one ear and a 245 Hz tone played in the other, which will produce the illusion of a third 5 Hz tone.

Binaural beats are an auditory illusion produced by playing two slightly different tones into each ear, and are tuned to the frequency of certain brainwaves to produce a desired effect.

What are the purported benefits of binaural beats?

Although binaural beats have been studied in diseases such as Parkinson’s,[2] cardiovascular disease, [3] and tinnitus,[4] the bulk of the research has been dedicated to improving sleep, cognitive factors, and pain. Broadly speaking, binaural beats seem to have modest to strong effects on sleep, memory, attention, mood, and pain.

A quick note about the studies: the “control” groups vary considerably, and include silence, white noise, music, and sham sounds. Developing adequate controls is difficult with a treatment like this, which is worth keeping in mind.

While binaural beats have been investigated for a variety of outcomes, the best evidence lies in their effects on memory, relaxation, and pain.
Lower-frequency binaural beats in the delta, theta, and alpha ranges seem to produce relaxation and pain reduction, and higher frequency beats in the beta and gamma range may be able to improve memory.
Lower-frequency beats may make memory worse acutely, by producing neural states that are incompatible with encoding information.

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How to Take

Medical Disclaimer

Recommended dosage, active amounts, other details

Because binaural beats require a unique sound played into each ear, headphones should be used.

A number of binaural beat generators are available, most of which offer the option to set a base frequency (often between 200 and 400 Hz) followed by a binaural frequency, the former being the average frequency between each of the tones played in each ear and the latter being the difference between the two frequencies.

Binaural frequencies are often set to match certain brainwave frequencies, depending on the desired effect: [5]

  • Delta (1–4 Hz) – Sleep

  • Theta (4–8 Hz) – Sleepiness, meditation

  • Alpha (8–13 Hz) – Moderate alertness, meditation, recall

  • Beta (15–20 Hz) – Focus, sustained thought, excitement

  • Gamma (32–100 Hz) – Learning, problem solving

Note: Certain types of brain damage can impair an individual's ability to hear binaural beats. For example, individuals who experienced aphasia after a severe cerebrovascular accident (stroke) did not show any response to binaural beats.[6] Also, older individuals may not respond to binaural beats as effectively as younger individuals, especially at higher frequencies. [7]

To use binaural beats, tune them to the frequency of a desired brainwave and listen using headphones. A number of binaural beat generators can be found on the internet.

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Human Effect Matrix

Unlocked for Examine members

The Human Effect Matrix summarizes human studies to tell you what effects Binaural Beats has on your body, how much evidence there is, and how strong these effects are.

Full details are available to Examine members.
Grade Level of Evidence
Robust research conducted with repeated double-blind clinical trials
Multiple studies where at least two are double-blind and placebo controlled
Single double-blind study or multiple cohort studies
Uncontrolled or observational studies only
Level of Evidence
? The amount of high quality evidence. The more evidence, the more we can trust the results.
Outcome Magnitude of effect
? The direction and size of the supplement's impact on each outcome. Some supplements can have an increasing effect, others have a decreasing effect, and others have no effect.
Consistency of research results
? Scientific research does not always agree. HIGH or VERY HIGH means that most of the scientific research agrees.
Notes
grade-d Notable High See all 3 studies
Delta, theta, and alpha beats have been shown to reduce anxiety. This effect is most consistent in preoperative patients.
grade-d Notable Very High See all 3 studies
Binaural beats seem to reduce pain quite effectively, both in terms of subjective ratings of pain and usage of pain medication.
grade-d Notable Very High See all 3 studies
Theta and delta beats can increase relaxation. This effect may not be as strong in older individuals.
grade-d Notable High See all 4 studies
Gamma and beta beats reliably improve working memory.
grade-d Minor Very High See all 5 studies
There is some evidence (particularly with gamma frequencies) that binaural beats could improve ADHD, but further research is required.
grade-d Minor Very High See 2 studies
There is some evidence that beta and gamma binaural beats can improve certain aspects of cognition, but more research is needed.
grade-d Minor - See study
Creativity is a difficult concept to test, but a small amount of evidence suggests that gamma and alpha beats may improve it in some respects. One study suggested that baseline striatal dopamine levels will influence if you respond positively or negatively to treatment, so further research is required.
grade-d Minor Very High See 2 studies
Some studies have shown that gamma and beta beats improve long-term memory.
grade-d
Minor
- See 2 studies
One study noted that beta beats can improve mood after performing a vigilance task, while theta and delta beats actually worsened it.
grade-d Minor Very High See 2 studies
Not much research has been conducted on this subject, but theta and delta beats have been shown to have modest effects on sleep.
grade-d - - See 2 studies
grade-d - - See study
grade-d - - See 2 studies
grade-d - - See study
grade-d - - See study
grade-d - - See study
grade-d - - See study

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Things to Note

Other Functions:

Do Not Confuse With

Autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR), Isochronic Tones

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Click here to see all 41 references.