How these otherworldly sounds may help you hear your way to a happier, healthier you.
For as long as she can recall, Jessica Trimberger has lived with anxiety. “I find it difficult to be motivated and am generally jittery,” she says.
Trimberger, who owns a company which makes small-batch beauty products, also has trigeminal neuralgia — a facial nerve disorder often known as the”suicide disease” due to its painful and hard to control flare-ups.
“Anxiety and stress are some of my largest triggers,” she says, adding that the drugs she has tried have left her groggy and feeling”out of it”
But two months ago, Trimberger found something which did help her feel better: a soundwave phenomenon called binaural beats — subtle, surreal beats that are sometimes cocooned in relaxing music and seem to pulsate deep inside the brain.
Thinking”it could not hurt,” she listened and found the experience was better than she anticipated.
After only 10 minutes, she became relaxed enough to tolerate her pain.
She listened again, night after night. A month of beats later, Trimberger says she noticed something miraculous. “[Binaural beats] are among the best things to happen to me.”
The illusion of binaural beats
If you have ever done an online search for”stress relief” or”anxiety treatment,” chances are you have already heard of binaural beats. These otherworldly beats are big on YouTube, promising to cure everything from insomnia to fear, while improving poor memory and an anemic happiness level.
While it may be easy to dismiss binaural beats because another wellness gimmick currently enjoying its 15 minutes of fame, there’s some science behind these sounds… that are not actually sounds at all.
Experts credit a Prussian meteorologist called Heinrich Wilhelm Dove for discovering binaural beats way back in 1839. Also called”brain entrainment,” they have largely been considered an oddity over a useful medical therapy.
“Binaural” means”about both ears.”
When you play with a tone with a slightly different frequency into your left and right ear — say, 200 hertz (Hz) in one and 210 Hz in another — they travel separately to your inferior colliculus, the part of your mind that gathers sensory input. There, the tones”squelch” together into a so-called”beat” in a perceived new frequency.
Although it seems hard to believe, essentially,”you are hearing something that is not really there,” explains Troy A. Smith, PhD, an assistant professor of psychological science at the University of North Georgia in Gainesville, Georgia, who has analyzed binaural beats.
No one is arguing whether or not they exist, by the way. “The question is,” says Smith,”do they affect cognitive processes?”
In other words, what the hell do they do to your brain?