Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Binaural Beats
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In the previous chapter on Brain Wave Entrainment, I briefly talked about using binaural beats as a method to bring yourself to your desired brain wave state. That’s because when you’re in a lower brainwave are synchronized, many beneficial things occur, i.e. lowered stress, higher creativity, improved health, etc.
All good stuff, but no difference than if you were to meditate regularly.
Besides meditating, another way to entrain and synchronize your brainwaves is through the use of binaural-beats.
The technology and science behind binaural-beats is quite simple, really. Not surprisingly, they one of the most commonly used technology in self-help audio CDs/mp3s.
This chapter discusses binaural beats in detail. Whilst it’s a little technical, it’s not anything that you won’t be able to easily understand... : )
What are Binaural Beats?
Binaural beats occur when two separate carrier tones with slightly different frequencies are played in each ear.
For example, let's say you listen to a sound with a frequency of 200 Hz in the left ear and another sound with a frequency of 210 Hz in the right ear.
Your mind combines and interprets these two tones into a single sound (or "amplitude modulated standing wave") which you can "hear" in your mind only. You'll know it's a binaural beat because it has a distinctive pulsing sound, with a "wah-wah" sound or rhythm.
If you really want to be sure that you’re listening to binaural-beats, one way is to remove one of the headphones, leaving the other earphone on.
You’ll notice that the "wah-wah" sound goes away leaving behind a flat sound. Bring the earphone back and the "wah-wah" sound comes back too.
Now, remember that you actually only "perceive" the combined beats in your mind only. The human ear can only hear between 20 to 20,000 Hz, so obviously, you won’t be able to hear a tone with a frequency of only 10 Hz!
Anyway, the net result is that your brain waves will "entrain" to the frequency of the binaural beats.
This is actually one of the easiest ways of actually slowing down your brainwave patterns to achieve whatever brain wave state you want.
It doesn’t matter what frequency you use, what’s more important is the frequency difference between the two tones.
If any self-help product says that their products can only be used with stereo headphones, it’s highly likely that they’re using binaural beats for brainwave entrainment.
One of the better self-help products which uses binaural-beats is the Holosync audio technology by the Centerpointe Research Institute. Besides Holosync, meditation, relaxation CDs, subliminal and hypnotic messages CDs sometimes also use binaural beats in their products.
What Happens When You Listen to Binaural Beats?
Now, when listening to binaural beats with a frequency of 10 Hz (Alpha brainwave state) for the 1st time, some people may feel uncomfortable and even experience temporary headaches. Others may feel their eyes tearing.
If you feel that way, don’t worry, these effects are only temporary and go away quite fast. When your brainwaves slow down to Alpha brainwave state, your body will naturally relax.
For some people are always very tensed-up, they may feel some slight discomfort such as headaches when they physically relax and "let go". It’s this sudden release and relief that causes a slight headache or tearing. These side-effects are only temporary and usually go away the next time you enter Alpha state.
For most other people, once your brain waves slow down to Alpha, you’ll naturally feel very relaxed and peaceful, deep down inside.
As I described in my fr-ee ebook, being in Alpha is something that’s not easily described. You have to experience it to understand and appreciate it.
Let me try to explain it as best as I can.
Imagine yourself as a deep, still pool on a dark, moonless night with nothing stirring or disturbing the water or surroundings.
Not even a ripple on the water or even a breeze blowing.
So quiet that the only thing you hear is the sound of your heart beating and your breath as it moves in and out of your body.
Totally silent and still.
Being in Alpha is something that you can only truly understand by experiencing it.
It’s not something that can be easily described or understood intellectually.
But, if you’ve ever been in Alpha brainwave state before, you’ll know exactly what I mean...
Long-term Effectiveness of Binaural Beats & Brainwave Entrainment
When I first started listening to binaural beats, I was able to go into this really deep, peaceful state of light meditation. I mean, it was really deep and relaxing.
Everyday, without fail, after lunch, I would put on my earphones in the office, turn away and zone-out for about 20 minutes or so. It was a very refreshing and restful session.
After several months of regular daily use, I started to get the feeling that the binaural beat program I was using wasn’t really give me the same kind of "high" anymore.
I mean, I wasn’t getting to the same deep depth of Alpha as quickly or deeply as before. It was as if the binaural beats were losing their effectiveness.
There’s a reason for that. It’s not as if the binaural beats are losing their effectiveness. It’s actually because you’ve grown, physically and mentally.
Remember that every time you listen to binaural beats or brainwave entrainment programs, a signal or electrical impulse is sent through the neural pathways in your brain.
Initially, you’ll feel the effects strongest. After a while, your body and mind get used to this stimuli and it becomes 2nd nature, giving the impression that the binaural beats don’t work anymore (even then, I have to admit, although the binaural beats weren’t that effective, I felt calmer and felt more energetic in the afternoons).
In fact, that’s the problem with many self-help products on brainwave entrainment on the market. After a while, they sort of "lose" their effectiveness.
If you want to use self help products to help you in brainwave entrainment, instead of more natural techniques such as meditation, Release Technique or the Silva Method, there are some products that allow you to adjust the "strength" of the binaural beats.
By the way, if you’ve never listened to any binaural beats or are just trying out brainwave programs which allow you to vary the frequencies (most don't allow you to vary the frequencies but there are a few which give you the option to vary the frequencies), it’s a good idea to slowly reduce the frequency a little at a time, from Beta to Alpha and so on.
Don’t be too ambitious and immediately set a binaural beat of 4Hz, down from your normal Beta brainwave frequency of 14 plus Hz. If you do, you’re going to find it extremely uncomfortable.
It’ll be difficult for your mind to process all that energy without even having gone through Alpha state (7-14 Hz). What’s happening here is that each time you entrain your brain waves to a new lower frequency, your mind is building new neural pathways through your brain.
Each time you listen to a frequency, the neural pathways are strengthened as your mind and body physically adjust itself to the lower frequency.
It’s like training for a race. If you’re not fit enough to run a 100-yards race, it’s not likely that you’ll be able to immediately run a marathon.
How to Maintain the Effectiveness of Binaural Beats & Brainwave Entrainment
In the 1970s, during brainwave studies and experiments, the Centerpointe Research Institute discovered that the secret to maintaining the effectiveness of brain wave entrainment or binaural beats over a period of time lies in the carrier frequencies of the tones itself (In case you’ve forgotten, the carrier frequencies are the two tones of slightly different frequencies that create the binaural beats).
Researchers at the Centerpointe Research Institute concluded that by progressively lowering the carrier frequencies, they could continue to maintain the effectiveness of the binaural-beats and brainwave entrainment program, long after subjects reported that a "loss of effectiveness" from such programs.
For example, after the brain & neural pathways laid down had gotten use to the previous frequencies, if the initial two carrier frequencies were 400 Hz and 410 Hz, the next step would be to lower the carrier frequencies to 350 and 360 Hz, and so on. This enabled their subjects to continue the effectiveness and derive additional benefits from their programs.
The Centerpointe consolidated all their research and technology into a single audio program, which they called Holosync audio technology.
How Binaural- Beats Entrain Your Brain Waves!
Now, binaural-beats aren’t something that’s really special or happens only in our heads. There’s actually a simple and common physics explanation for binaural-beats. You may not realize it but you probably may have learnt about it in Physics lessons when you were still in school (Bet you’ve probably forgotten all about it...=)..)
If you project a single sine-wave with a certain frequency, you’ll hear a single flat tone. As you can see from the wave form below, it’s relatively flat and stable.
Now, if you take another similar wave with the same amplitude (That’s how strong the waves are. It’s represented as the height of the waves) but at a slightly different frequency, and project it at the same time, the two waves are said to "interfere" with each other.
When this happens, the two wave combine and cancel each other out at certain points, resulting in an "amplitude modulated standing wave".
Incidentally, this experiment is usually done in Physics labs using either light or water to demonstrate the effect.
Now that you know the physics behind binaural-beats, it’s quite easy to see how they can be used for brainwave entrainment.
When one carrier tone is projected into one ear only, and a 2nd carrier tone with a slightly different frequency into the other ear, both tones are combined into an "amplitude modulated standing wave" in the mind.
This happens in the brain’s sound processing center, called the superior olivary nucleus. Both left and right hemispheres have their own superior olivary nucleus, where noise and sound are interpreted by the mind. Scientists believe that this is where binaural-beats are "perceived" and "heard" by the mind.
So, because of the FFR (Frequency Following Response) effect, these binaural beats will entrain your brainwaves to the same frequency.
So now you know how binaural-beats can be used to entrain your brainwaves!
BINAURAL-BEATS & SELF-HELP AUDIO PRODUCTS
Ever wondered why many self-help brain waves entrainment products use the sound of nature (ocean waves, thunderstorms, raindrops, etc.), classical or new age music?
Well, there’s a reason behind that. The one common thing that all these sounds or music have is that they’re all relatively monotonous (compared to other music such as rock or pop!). They may be soothing and relaxing but still, you’ve got to admit that they just go on and on.
Don’t get me wrong. The carrier waves don’t have to be at the same fixed frequency all the time to generate binaural-beats. So long as you maintain the frequency difference between the two carrier waves, you’ll still be able to produce binaural-beats and brainwave entrainment.
It’s just that it’s easier to create binaural-beats with a relatively flat and stable carrier waves. If the carrier waves constantly go up and down all the time, it’s more difficult to maintain the frequency difference. Besides, if the carrier waves are all over the place, you’ll find it hard to relax and slow down your brain waves anyway (Tapping or bouncing up and down to your favorite rock band doesn’t count!).
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