Binaural Beats

Last Updated: September 28, 2022

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.

Binaural Beats is most often used for

What are binaural beats?

Binaural beats are a form of “auditory beat stimulation”, which includes both monaural and binaural beats.[4] 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,[5] cardiovascular disease, [6] and tinnitus,[7] 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.

What else is Binaural Beats known as?
Binaural Beats should not be confused with:
  • Autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR)
  • Isochronic Tones
Dosage information

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: [1]

  • 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.[2] Also, older individuals may not respond to binaural beats as effectively as younger individuals, especially at higher frequencies. [3]

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.

Examine Database: Binaural Beats
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Research Breakdown

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The information in this section is slated for renovation — it will soon be transformed into a more usable (and readable!) form in the coming months. As such, the text in this section may be out of date and not up to Examine’s current standards for writing style.

  1. ^Hengameh Marzbani, Hamid Reza Marateb, Marjan MansourianNeurofeedback: A Comprehensive Review on System Design, Methodology and Clinical ApplicationsBasic Clin Neurosci.(2016 Apr)
  2. ^D F Barr, T A Mullin, P S HerbertApplication of binaural beat phenomenon with aphasic patientsArch Otolaryngol.(1977 Apr)
  3. ^John H Grose, Sara K MamoElectrophysiological measurement of binaural beats: effects of primary tone frequency and observer ageEar Hear.(Mar-Apr 2012)
  4. ^Leila Chaieb, Elke Caroline Wilpert, Thomas P Reber, Juergen FellAuditory beat stimulation and its effects on cognition and mood StatesFront Psychiatry.(2015 May 12)
  5. ^Gerardo Gálvez, Manuel Recuero, Leonides Canuet, Francisco Del-PozoShort-Term Effects of Binaural Beats on EEG Power, Functional Connectivity, Cognition, Gait and Anxiety in Parkinson's DiseaseInt J Neural Syst.(2018 Jun)
  6. ^Calvin CarterHealthcare performance and the effects of the binaural beats on human blood pressure and heart rateJ Hosp Mark Public Relations.(2008)
  7. ^Brittany A Munro, Grant D SearchfieldThe short-term effects of recorded ocean sound with and without alpha frequency binaural beats on tinnitus perceptionComplement Ther Med.(2019 Jun)
Examine Database References
  1. Pain - Vasileios Gkolias, Aikaterini Amaniti, Areti Triantafyllou, Panagiota Papakonstantinou, Panagiotis Kartsidis, Evangelos Paraskevopoulos, Panagiotis D Bamidis, Leontios Hadjileontiadis, Dimitrios KouvelasReduced pain and analgesic use after acoustic binaural beats therapy in chronic pain - A double-blind randomized control cross-over trialEur J Pain.(2020 Jun 21)
  2. Calmness - Patrick A McConnell, Brett Froeliger, Eric L Garland, Jeffrey C Ives, Gary A SforzoAuditory driving of the autonomic nervous system: Listening to theta-frequency binaural beats post-exercise increases parasympathetic activation and sympathetic withdrawalFront Psychol.(2014 Nov 14)
  3. Anxiety Symptoms - B K Isik, A Esen, B Büyükerkmen, A Kilinç, D MenziletogluEffectiveness of binaural beats in reducing preoperative dental anxietyBr J Oral Maxillofac Surg.(2017 Jul)
  4. Anxiety Symptoms - R Padmanabhan, A J Hildreth, D LawsA prospective, randomised, controlled study examining binaural beat audio and pre-operative anxiety in patients undergoing general anaesthesia for day case surgeryAnaesthesia.(2005 Sep)
  5. Calmness - George Lee-Harris, Renee Timmers, Nigel Humberstone, Daniel BlackburnMusic for Relaxation: A Comparison Across Two Age GroupsJ Music Ther.(2018 Dec 11)
  6. Working Memory - Jeong-Hwan Lim, Hyeri Kim, Chuljin Jeon, Soohyun ChoThe effects on mental fatigue and the cognitive function of mechanical massage and binaural beats (brain massage) provided by massage chairsComplement Ther Clin Pract.(2018 Aug)
  7. Working Memory - Christine Beauchene, Nicole Abaid, Rosalyn Moran, Rachel A Diana, Alexander LeonessaThe Effect of Binaural Beats on Visuospatial Working Memory and Cortical ConnectivityPLoS One.(2016 Nov 28)
  8. Working Memory - Hessel Engelbregt, Nora Meijburg, Marjolein Schulten, Oliver Pogarell, Jan Berend DeijenThe Effects of Binaural and Monoaural Beat Stimulation on Cognitive Functioning in Subjects with Different Levels of EmotionalityAdv Cogn Psychol.(2019 Aug 30)
  9. Working Memory - Christine Beauchene, Nicole Abaid, Rosalyn Moran, Rachel A Diana, Alexander LeonessaThe effect of binaural beats on verbal working memory and cortical connectivityJ Neural Eng.(2017 Apr)
  10. Calmness - Swee Wu Phneah, Humaira NisarEEG-based alpha neurofeedback training for mood enhancementAustralas Phys Eng Sci Med.(2017 Jun)
  11. Creativity - Susan A Reedijk, Anne Bolders, Bernhard HommelThe impact of binaural beats on creativityFront Hum Neurosci.(2013 Nov 14)
  12. Subjective Well-Being - J D Lane, S J Kasian, J E Owens, G R MarshBinaural auditory beats affect vigilance performance and moodPhysiol Behav.(1998 Jan)
  13. Memory - Miguel Garcia-Argibay, Miguel A Santed, José M RealesBinaural auditory beats affect long-term memoryPsychol Res.(2019 Sep)
  14. Heart Rate Variability - Katherine Kelton, Terri L Weaver, Lisa Willoughby, David Kaufman, Anna SantowskiThe Efficacy of Binaural Beats as a Stress-buffering TechniqueAltern Ther Health Med.(2020 Jul 1)
  15. Cognition - John L. Carter and Harold L. RussellA Pilot Investigation of Auditory and Visual Entrainment of Brain Wave Activity in Learning Disabled BoysTexas Researcher.()
  16. Sleep Quality - D E Shumov, I A Yakovenko, N N Alipov, Z V Bakaeva, E B Yakunina, A N Minyuk, A V Vinokurov, V B Dorokhov[The effect of music containing binaural beats on daytime fall-asleep dynamics]Zh Nevrol Psikhiatr Im S S Korsakova.(2020)
  17. Attention - Susan Kennel, Ann Gill Taylor, Debra Lyon, Cheryl BourguignonPilot feasibility study of binaural auditory beats for reducing symptoms of inattention in children and adolescents with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorderJ Pediatr Nurs.(2010 Feb)
  18. Subjective Well-Being - Lorenza S Colzato, Hayley Barone, Roberta Sellaro, Bernhard HommelMore attentional focusing through binaural beats: evidence from the global-local taskPsychol Res.(2017 Jan)
  19. Fatigue Symptoms - Vera Abeln, Jens Kleinert, Heiko K Strüder, Stefan SchneiderBrainwave entrainment for better sleep and post-sleep state of young elite soccer players - a pilot studyEur J Sport Sci.(2014)
  20. Anxiety Symptoms - Alessandro Tani, Guido Vagheggini, Francesca Moretti, Valentina Del Colombo, Joerg Lehle, Serena Campana, Angelo Labate, Francesco TomaiuoloBinaural Beats Reduce Postoperative Morphine Consumption in Older adults After Total Knee Replacement SurgeryAltern Ther Health Med.(2020 May 15)
  21. Sedation - Werner Schmid, Peter Marhofer, Philipp Opfermann, Markus Zadrazil, Oliver Kimberger, Lydia Triffterer, Daniela Marhofer, Wolfgang KlugBrainwave entrainment to minimise sedative drug doses in paediatric surgery: a randomised controlled trialBr J Anaesth.(2020 Sep)
  22. Pain - Donna D ZampiEfficacy of Theta Binaural Beats for the Treatment of Chronic PainAltern Ther Health Med.(Jan-Feb 2016)