How to Use Sound for Therapy

Binaural beats can be used to induce relaxation and promote a feeling of wellness. You can use them for sound therapy while you sleep, when you're awake and needing more energy, or even when you're feeling sick.


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    Know how binaural beats work. To listen to a binaural beat, you would use headphones to pipe sound to each ear. Each tone will be at a slightly different frequency, resulting in the "beat" you perceive. The difference in Hertz (Hz) between the sounds determines the effect on brainwaves. Here's a general list of tone differences and the effect they're meant to achieve.
    • Delta waves: Less than 4 Hz; deep, dreamless sleep and unconsciousness.
    • Theta waves: 4 - 7 Hz; deep meditation, non-REM sleep.
    • Alpha waves: 7 - 13 Hz; wakeful relaxation, drowsiness, REM sleep.
    • Beta waves: 13- 39 Hz; active concentration, arousal, paranoia.
    • Gamma waves: Greater than 40 Hz; high-level mental activity, problem-solving.
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    Download some binaural beats to try out. Look for free tracks on iTunes, or do an online search for other free sources or binaural beat generators.
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    Use binaural beats while you sleep. The easiest introduction to binaural beats is playing them softly as you rest. Try taking a nap while listening to alpha waves, or putting on delta or theta waves for a deep night's rest.
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    Use binaural beats to feel wakeful. If you're comfortable using the beats as you sleep, give them a shot while you're awake. Listen to beta or gamma waves while you're at work, and see if they increase your productivity.
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    Treat illness or discomfort with binaural beats. Next time you're not feeling great, see if binaural beats can help. A preliminary study has shown that binaural beats used for sound therapy can help alleviate migraines, stress headaches, pain, PMS and behavioral issues.[1]
    • Lie down and try Alpha waves first; if those don't help you relax, move incrementally through Theta waves and Delta waves until you find relief.
    • If you're recovering from surgery or serious illness, try listening to short bouts (20 to 30 minutes) of Theta waves from 0.5 to 3 Hz to accelerate your body's healing process. Once the patient shows improvement, the times can be progressively lengthened and interspersed with Theta sound waves, up to about 8 Hz.
    • Use binaural beats for meditation. Meditating without binaural beats can take decades to master, but a beat in the 5 to 8 Hz range might help you get to a calm state of mind more quickly.
    • If you're short on sleep, take a 30-minute nap listening to 5 to 7 Hz Theta waves. It might help you feel like you've caught up.
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    Filter binaural beats with "pink noise" (optional). Some people find the sound of pure sine waves unpleasant. To get around this, some binaural beats are "padded out" with gentle nature sounds. The beats are still there, but they're not as prevalent or effective. If pure beats irritate your hearing, search for "binaural beats nature" or something similar.
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    Realize that one size might not fit all. If you're uncomfortable with a binaural beat at 8Hz, try moving up to 11 or 12 Hz and seeing if that suits you better. You might need to try a few different tracks before finding one that works for you.


  • Share binaural beats by burning a CD of ones you like. They can make a thoughtful gift.
  • If you find that binaural beats really help you sleep, consider making a specialized bed for sound therapy. Click on the photo at right for a diagram.


  • Listening to Theta waves for a few hours can't substitute a good night's sleep. Your body still needs sufficient rest.
  • Certain frequencies (they are different for different people) are said to cause great discomfort and even physical pain and illness.
  • Do not confuse "sound therapy" or "music-as-therapy" with "music therapy". Music therapy refers to the practice of a board-certified music therapist working with a client (or a group) to use music - usually live, improvised music - as a means of achieving goals relating to areas such as self-expression, mood regulation, communication, interpersonal relationships, or reaching developmental milestones. Music therapy can only be practiced by someone with an advanced degree and appropriate clinical training and is not sold in a packaged self-help format such as books or CDs. Music therapists may incorporate techniques involving sound healing, but the fields are not the same thing and it is important to use correct terminology.

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Categories: Alternative Health