What Are Binaural Beats?

Audio technology for optimal performance

Scientific research1 and personal experience show binaural beats are able alter mood and perception. This is particularly so when used for meditation, concentration and sleep.

The technology has been understood for a long time2 and is completely safe. It is only in the last 20 years or so that using binaural beats became widespread, in line with the rise of digital media.

Binaural beats are used to promote brain wave states similar to those seen during meditation, relaxation, concentration, creativity and deep sleep. Some claim more exotic states of consciousness such as lucid dreaming and OOBE3.

This is possible due to the brain’s natural ability to adopt an external frequency stimulus, or rhythm. This is called the frequency following response (FFR)4.

Brainwave entrainment5 is a term used to describe any practice that causes brain wave frequencies to fall into step with a periodic stimulus.

What binaural beats are is a form of brainwave entrainment used to create a specific response in the brain. As the listener you get to choose exactly what kind of response. You can adapt your state of mind to suit the needs of the present moment.

We all have experience of this phenomenon, which is completely natural. Why it happens is not fully understood, but typical examples are:

  • Slow music is often described as soothing, while the reverse is true for faster or chaotic beats.
  • 1 cycle per second (Hz) is the dominant frequency for a developing foetus (the mother’s heartbeat) and induces a state of deep dreamless sleep.
  • Hypnotherapy makes use of regular rhythms, or cadence, to put subjects into a hypnotic trance (consistent with theta brain waves).
  • Shamans have for thousands of years used drum-beats of around 4 cycles per second (the border between theta/dreaming and delta/unconscious mind) to induce altered states of awareness.

There are countless rhythms that influence us, but what creates the frequency following response is the dominant frequency.

The experience we have when in sync with a particular beat very much depends on the cycles per second or frequency (Hz). While higher frequencies can modify mood, lower frequencies (less than 20 Hz) appear to have more profound affects.

Some of the reported benefits of using low-frequency binaural beats are:

  • Effortless super-deep meditation.
  • Improved learning and memory, greater clarity of thought and ability to concentrate.
  • Increased creativity and intuition.
  • Significantly lower levels of stress and correspondingly lower levels of harmful stress-related brain chemicals.
  • Increased production of brain chemicals related to longevity, well-being, and quality of life.
  • Better sleep.

Researcher Robert Cosgrove, Jr., Ph.D., M.D., an authority in biomedical engineering, noted that technologies that alter brain wave patterns:

Have great potential for use in promoting optimal cerebral performance … furthermore the long-term effects of regular use may delay for decades the deterioration of the brain traditionally associated with aging.6

Simply put — binaural beats provide exercise for the brain. Regular use has the potential to create improvement in mental ability and age-related decline can be postponed, perhaps indefinitely.

Try for yourself!  Click here to open Total Relaxation in a modal window.

You need to listen to binaural beats with headphones. It typically takes 7 or 8 minutes for your brain to sync with the audio.


  1. Oster, G. (1973) Auditory beats in the brain. Scientific American, 229, pp. 94-102.
  2. Wikipedia: Heinrich Wilhelm Dove.
  3. Monroe, R. A. (1985) Far journeys. New York: Doubleday.
  4. Worden, F.G., Marsh, J.T. (July, 1968) Frequency-following (microphonic-like) neural responses evoked by sound. Electroencephalography and Clinical Neurophysiology 25 (1): 42-52.
  5. Wikipedia: Brainwave Entrainment.
  6. Robert Cosgrove, Jr., Ph.D., M.D., quoted from Hutchison, Michael. Megabrain Power. New York: Hyperion, 1994. p. 89.

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paul lloyd

Paul Lloyd

Paul is the owner of the MR website and editor-in-chief.