What Are Binaural Beats?

Using Sound to Heal: Facilitate Deep Relaxation, Sleep and Pain Management with Easy to Use and Inexpensive State of the Art Technology

Allyn Evans with headsets
Robert Monroe headshot

By Allyn Evans

The History: The story of how Hemi-Sync started.

In the 1950s Robert Monroe became interested in sleep learning. In 1956, he and his team created a research and development division to investigate sleep-learning. He rounded up volunteers to test out his theory. An unexpected challenge occurred: the team had trouble getting their subjects to fall asleep. While trying to solve this problem, it occurred to Monroe that they could use sound or a combination of frequencies to induce sleep.

They succeeded!

This led them to investigate the effects of various sound patterns, which led to an expansion of his work.

Fast forward to 1975 ...

By this time Monroe had hired two young researchers, one being Tom Campbell of My Big Toe notoriety.

Dennis Mennerich, the other young scientist hired by Monroe, read an article about binaural beats, which led to Monroe securing a trademark for Hemi-Sync in 1975.

Tom Campbell headshot

Tom Campbell, Fall 2017

Heinrich Wilhelm Dove headshot

What are binaural beats?

Interestingly enough, binaural beats were discovered in 1839 by a German scientist named Heinrich Wilhelm Dove. He discovered that when one inaudible tone (or frequency) was played in one ear and then another inaudible tone played in the other ear the brain perceived a different outcome. It is also called a frequency following response or brain entrapment.

As an example, let’s assume we are playing a tone of 100 Hz, or rather cycles per second, in one ear and 104 Hz in the other. Once the brain processes this, it will be perceived as 4 Hz, which equates to a theta state.

Thus, an explanation of how the binaural beat process works. If we are the ones having the experience, then we’d be more likely to find ourselves in a theta state of awareness.

Brain-wave maps without Hemi-Sync

Whole Brain Living: You Know Using Both the Right and Left Brain Simultaneously

As the team continued to work with the technology, they realized that individuals using it were able to access simultaneously both hemispheres of the brain.

Why is this Big Deal?

Without practice or technology, we do access both sides of our brain, but it’s fleeting and unorganized. Research supports this. We have the benefit of the work of Menninger Foundation, which demonstrated that even those who were long-time practitioners of a strict form of Zen meditation could only hold a whole brain state for a limited time (15 minutes or less).

Research also shows us that highly successful people tend to more readily reach whole brain states than others.

How Do I Obtain a Whole Brain State without Years of Practice?

Anyone can reach a whole brain state and maintain it for extended periods of time by using sound technology, or rather sound technology incorporating binaural beats.

What we like about Monroe’s work is that it has been put to the test—50 years of tests.

In addition to helping one access both parts of your brain (left and right) simultaneously, the sound technology, which includes binaural beats, can facilitate the ability to reach different brainwave levels.

Women listening with headsets

This technology has been shown to help in a variety of situations, including helping people:

  1. concentrate
  2. heal
  3. reduce chemotherapy side effects
  4. reduce stress
  5. Improve sleep
Sound waves on a dark blue background

Time to Translate the Mumbo Jumbo

The good news is this stuff is measurable. One way, we can do this is by measuring our cerebral signals using an electroencephalogram (EEG).

It can be determined in real time and provide information about how the technology is working for us.

Our emphasis on binaural beats has us focusing in on the 0 to 20 cycles per second range. However, in recent years, we have discovered there is a much broader range of frequencies that can be measured.

It turns out the lower the reading, the slower the activity. For example, when we are in a deep stage of sleep, we are in the delta range, which occurs from .5 to 3 Hz.

Hemi-Sync has been studied for 50 years, which means there is lots of supporting data for its effectiveness.

Woman sleeping, on white background

Following that Frequency

Deep Restorative Sleep-Delta (.5 Hz to 3 Hz)

We reach delta waves while sleeping, specifically when we are in a deep state of sleep. This activity comes from the brainstem and when we are in this state our “thinking, critical” brain or cortical brain can go to a state needed to recover and restore the physical, mental and emotional bodies.

Many people, unfortunately more people than we care to believe, don’t get enough of this stage of sleep. Studies support this and also indicate that not getting enough delta brainwave experience can lead to poor health.

Creativity and Intuition, if we can stay awake - Theta (4 Hz to 7 Hz)

Theta brainwaves tend to have a signal that can be found in the limbic system (amygdala, hypothalamus) of the brain. This is where we house our memory. It is also the home for intuition and learning. It is a place that is on the subconscious level for most people.

When not properly attended to, it can hijack the thinking or reasoning of the cortical brain. It’s the reason we need to dig a little deeper to discuss patterns and beliefs that we might not consciously be aware we have. We can access these states when sleeping or meditating.

As with all stages of brainwaves, there are levels. At the higher end of the spectrum, one can more readily access your creativity. This is where epiphanies reside. There are other benefits.

Two Menninger Foundation researchers, Elmer and Alyce Green, reported: “Causing the brain to generate theta activity daily over a period of time seems to have enormous benefits, including boosting the immune system, enhancing creativity and triggering feelings of wellbeing.”

Elmer and Alyce Green, Menninger's Foundation

The Launching Point - for extraordinary experiences or peak performance - Alpha (8 Hz to 12 Hz)

Alpha waves are connected to the thalamus, basically the area of the brain that relays and receives sensory input from both internal and external sources. This stimulus is then processed by primarily the cortex. When we find ourselves in alpha, which can be found when relaxing or meditating, we can easily transition from this state to either a more alert state or to a more relaxed and deeper state.

This is the stage that children younger than six tend to hang out the most, which also means they have less of filter to block out words or actions that someone reacting or responding in a beta state of awareness might do. People usually are no longer in an alpha state once they open their eyes because the critical mind steps in to pull them more towards a beta state of awareness.

Awake and Alert, enhanced ability to focus and concentrate - Beta (13 Hz to approximately 30 Hz)

The beta state of awareness resides in the cortex. It is where we reason and think. It’s the state we find ourselves when our eyes are wide open and we are alert. If we are in low-range beta, we are relaxed and interested in something, like reading a book. A mid-range level is where we are if we are learning or engaging more with our daily lives. If we are in the high-ranges of beta, then our body is producing stress chemicals, like adrenaline.

Older woman suffering from headache

If we remain in high beta for extended periods of time, it can impact us negatively. Chronic worriers are typically in a high beta state. EEG activity shows us that chronic worriers overuse the frontal cortex and are ideal candidates to add a meditation practice to their routine.

Being in the Zone and Heightened Creativity - Gamma (36 Hz to 100 Hz)

When we are measuring gamma states in individuals, we tend to find them in a range between 35 to 45 cycles per second. This is where peak performance occurs, such as when an Olympic athlete is mastering a challenge. You’ve heard the saying: “Being in the zone.” It’s also where we can access heightened creativity and deeper clarity about issues. This is not a state that is easily obtainable. Long-term meditators can reach this state for short periods of time.

If one is having a lot of coherent gamma activity, then it is more than likely that they are happier, compassionate and aware. He says: “Think of gamma as the side effect of a shift in consciousness.”

We think it’s the next best thing since sliced bread. And not only that, we can measure the results. It works! The numbers tell the story.