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Understanding How Binaural Beats Technology Works

Using binaural beat technology is incredibly easy; just stick on some headphones, relax and hit play on your iPod/mp3 player or computer, but understanding how it works is a little more difficult for some people to get their heads around.

In this post we break down the jargon and explain the science in layman’s terms.

What is a Frequency?

The best place to begin understanding binaural beat technology is ‘frequency’ – because the science is created by frequency, and its success dependent on how the brain responds to particular frequency combinations.

Frequency is the rate, or number of times per second, in which a sound wave cycles from positive to negative to positive again.

Frequency is measured in hertz (Hz), which is a measurement of cycles per second.

Humans have a range of hearing from 20 Hz (low) to 20,000 Hz (high). Frequencies beyond this range exist, but they are inaudible to the human ear.

How Binaural Beat Technology Works

Binaural beats recordings work by sending two separate tones at slightly different frequencies to each one of the listener’s ears through stereo headphones.

Upon hearing the two tones together through the left and right ears, the brain perceives the tones as an audible beat. The difference in frequency between the two tones is the binaural beat.

The brain then follows along at this difference, and its brainwaves entrained to the same frequency. This process is known as ‘frequency following response’.

* Note that the frequencies of the tones must be below 1,000 Hz for the beating to be noticeable, and that the difference between the two frequencies must less than or equal to 30 Hz for the effect to occur; otherwise, the two tones will be heard separately and no beat will be perceived by the brain.

How Frequency Following Response Works

For example, if we send a frequency of 200 Hz to the left ear, and a frequency of 205Hz to the right ear, the difference between the two frequencies is 5hz – the binaural beat – and the frequency the brain will respond (follow along) to.

When brainwaves are at 5hz, we experience deep relaxation and calm. This is known as the Theta state.

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Why You Need Headphones

To trigger the frequency response process, the brain must receive the left and right tones at the same time. Technically, you could listen through speakers if your head was positioned correctly between the right and left speaker, and close enough, of course, but the effect would be greatly reduced.

However, it is widely accepted that binaural beat technology does not work without headphones. To learn more about the brain states binaural beat technology is capable of targeting, and to test a binaural beat sample. go to our ‘How it Works’ page.

When you put on your headphones and press play, note that the sound appears to pulsate when you have both earphones on. This is means your brain is interpreting the tones as a third tone (a binaural beat) and responding accordingly.

Now remove one earphone. Note that the pulsations disappear completely. This now means that no entrainment is taking place as the brain is not responding to the two frequencies.

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