Binaural Beats: Digital Drugs, Virtual High or Whistling in the Dark?

Michaela Whitton
March 23, 2016

(ANTIMEDIA) United Kingdom — A sensationalist frenzy over binaural beats has rippled across the globe over the last few years. Mainly perpetuated by those wishing to capitalise on the phenomenon, as well as scaremongering media reports, many have been left confused as to whether claims are true that the hypnotic beats produce a virtual high.

In short, a binaural beat is created when auditory tones of two different frequencies are heard in the left and right ears. As a result, the brain creates a third tone or frequency that is perceived as a middle frequency of the two. The differences between the two frequencies become the new frequency of the perceived tone in the brain, known as a binaural beat.

It comes as no surprise that people are bewildered when a quick search for information reveals the sensational soundwaves can do everything from reducing anxiety and producing strong hallucinations to improving your meditation and helping achieve sexual enlightenment — whatever that may be. In addition, it is claimed the hypnotic sounds can enhance concentration and aid those with ADHD.

Whether it is alarmed parents — terrified their precious offspring are getting wasted behind bedroom doors with only a set of headphones and a laptop for company — or the Saudi authorities concerned people might be having far too much fun with something they haven’t banned yet, binaural beats remain shrouded in mystery and misinformation. Propaganda around the sensationalized soundwaves reached its peak in 2012, when a U.A.E police scientist called for a ban on the audio files and claimed they should be classed in the same category as cannabis and MDMA.

So are the rumours true? Is this a high of the finest variety that won’t leave you with an empty wallet and feeling regretful the next day?

No consumerist society worth its salt would be complete without someone cashing in on what makes people feel good, and U.S company I-Doser has stepped up to the plate. Claiming to help people achieve a simulated mood through digital dosing, the company boasts tracks on its website called Alcohol Content, Sleeping Angel, and Alert, offering hundreds of “doses” of binaural brainwaves for a few dollars.

However, the reality is that a quick search of Youtbube reveals hundreds of “doses” available for free with just a few clicks. Here, remedies are touted for everything from stress relief and quitting smoking to achieving a hands-free orgasm.

If you are still reading and we haven’t lost you to Youtube, we want to alleviate the fears of the joy police — whoever they may be — by taking a look at what binaural beats are and what they are not.

What are they?

Our human brains are a wonderfully complex network of billions of neurons (nerve cells) connected to each other by synapses. Through these synapses, electrochemical signals are sent via nerves throughout the brain and nervous system. When large numbers of neurons vibrate at the same frequency, electrical fields — known as brain waves — are generated. When the brain is given a stimulus, through the ears, eyes, or other senses, it emits an electrical charge in response.

Frequencies and states of consciousness

Delta Brainwaves 0.5 – 3 Hz: deep dreamless sleep, very deep meditation, healing and recuperation

Theta Brainwaves 4 – 7 Hz: deep meditation, dreaming, creativity, inspiration, insight, enhanced memory

Alpha Brainwaves 8 – 13 Hz: accelerated learning, heightened creativity, deep relaxation, relaxed focus, visualization

Beta Brainwaves 14 – 40 Hz: high focus, concentration, wakefulness, analyzing and assimilating information rapidly, complex mental processing (cannot be sustained indefinitely)

Gamma Brainwaves 40 Hz and higher: heightened perception, euphoria, improved IQ, increased cognition, joy

Brainwaves can often be stimulated in a process called Brainwave Entrainment, which essentially synchronizes two different beats so they become harmonious. Entrainment is an assisted form of meditation that uses sound or light pulses, and this is where binaural beats come into the picture.

For example, if an auditory tone with a frequency of 120Hz is heard in the right ear and the auditory tone in the left ear at 130 Hz, the perceived middle tone will have a frequency of 10Hz.  This perceived middle tone — and the brain’s response to it — is the binaural beat. It is a brainwave frequency, not an audio drug, that gets people high.

While passively listening to binaural beats may not propel people into an altered state of consciousness, some may find certain hypnotic beats to be relaxing or energizing. The same could be said for other forms of music or meditative practice.

To recap, binaural beats are not digital drugs, they don’t get people high, and they are not harmful. They are frequencies produced in the brain by combining two other frequencies to create a middle tone which stimulates brain waves. Coming in five forms — delta, theta, alpha, beta, and gamma — these brainwaves perform a variety of functions, including sleep, relaxation, meditation, alertness, focus, problem-solving, and thinking. This is why binaural beats are used as a therapeutic technique, can aid in making behavioural changes, and be used to treat physical ailments.

Below is a video explaining the technique further. What are you waiting for? Why not give it a go if you haven’t already and remember to let us know what you think?

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