What Are Binaural Tones?

Listening to binaural tones can apparently have an effect on mental states.

Binaural tones, or beats, are the audible results from two slightly different frequencies at the same time. There is anecdotal evidence, as well as some research, to suggest that these tones can have an effect on the mental state of the listener. There are several methods of producing these tones and the field of study has fascinating ramifications for meditation and brain studies.


Binaural tones may affect human performance.

While there is still more research to do, studies into binaural tones show promising indications that listening to these tones through headphones can positively affect human performance. It is possible to create tones that stimulate beta, theta, alpha, and delta brain waves and to simulate the "psychomotor performance and mood" of the subjects. The results could provide better mood, improved concentration, and more accurate task-driven results.

Stereo Headphones

Listening with headphones is the most effective way to listen to binaural tones.

Listening with stereo headphones seems to be the best way to achieve the effects of binaural tones. One frequency goes to the left ear, and one goes to the right ear. Together these frequencies combine and create a middle frequency that is between the frequencies sent to the left and right ear. Additionally, these two frequencies will create amplitude that rises and falls between the two frequencies. This creates a steady beat or pulse perceived by the ear.

Composite Tones

Binaural tones with speakers may be less effective.

When headphones are not used, the two frequencies come already combined. This seems to be a less effective method of creating mood-affecting binaural tones. However, there are certain companies that are marketing this technology to the public and providing their software for use with or without headphones.

Commercial Products

For a fee, companies will provide you with their products to simulate brain states.

As is often the case with new research, several companies have attempted to profit off this phenomenon. There are apps for mobile devices as well as recordings that cover the tones with classical music. The main criteria that consumers should look for is whether the frequencies are sent separately through the left and right ear and if the frequencies correspond to a particular brain wave. The brain wave frequencies that have been studied and tested are beta between 16 and 24 Hz, and theta between 1.5 and 4 Hz.


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