Medically reviewed by, Russell Braun RPH
Ever wonder who came up with the idea of listening to different tones simultaneously in your ears? That is essentially what binaural beats do. They were once used for tuning instruments, but have been tried for various health purposes more recently. Is it really possible that binaural beats could help with weight loss?
First of all, lets be clear sitting around and listening to binaural beats all day will NOT cause you to lose weight. However, just like good music can pump you up for exercise, binaural beats can get you in the right mindset.
Mindset is critically important to many of your health related goals. Research has shown similarities in mindset between binaural beats and meditation. The evidence is clear that meditation is beneficial for many aspects of health.
1. What Are Binaural Beats Anyway?
Binaural means relating to both ears. Hearing with both ears actually allows humans to be able to sense a direction that a sound is coming from. When sounds are recorded with two microphones they can then be transmitted separately to the ears of the listener.
Binaural beats use two sounds that are recorded at different frequencies. This causes the brain to process both frequencies independently. Over time your brain will pick up on this difference in frequency and synchronize them.
The difference in frequency for binaural beats ranges from 1 to 30Hz. This difference in frequency has been claimed to create brainwave patterns that are similar to meditation. Therefore, if you don’t like to meditate you can “trick” your brain into a meditative state. Think of it as a subliminal message of sorts that influences your minds behavior.
2. Why do Binaural Beats Work?
Changes in brainwaves are thought to be the main way binaural beats provide value. Getting into a meditative state involves calming the mind. Regular medication has been proven to have many positive health effects such as:
- Reduce stress
- Lower anxiety
- Increase attention span
- Reduce memory loss
- Improve sleep
- Control pain
- Decrease blood pressure
Brainwaves are the communications between our neurons. They are the root of all of our thoughts, emotions and behaviors. That is why being able to affect brain waves with binaural beats can be a powerful tool. Brainwaves exist at the following frequencies:
|Brainwave||Frequency||State of mind|
|Delta||0.5-3 Hz||Deep sleep and deep meditation|
|Theta||3-8 Hz||Sleep and meditation|
|Alpha||8-12 Hz||During quiet thought and some meditation|
|Beta||12-38 Hz||Normal brainwaves during awake conscious times|
|Gamma||38-42 Hz||Fast & quiet from one area of the brain to another|
3. What is the Science Behind Binaural Beats?
Several studies have looked at binaural beats to determine if there are true health benefits. The table below looks at some of the best studies available for a variety of conditions.
|Meditative state||This study from Frontiers in Neuroscience found that 10 minutes of binaural beats stimulated brain waves similar to meditating. The authors recommend a 6Hz binaural beat to induce theta type brain waves.|
|Pain perception and anxiety||Psychology Research did a meta analysis and found binaural beats helped reduce anxiety. They found that using binaural beats before and during activities improved outcomes. Also, the longer people were exposed to the beats, the greater the effect.|
|Anxiety prior to surgery||The Association of Anesthesia did a randomized, controlled study finding anxiety was reduced prior to surgery with binaural beats. They used 30 minutes of binaural beats prior to surgery in patients who using pharmaceutical drugs were not a good option.|
|Improve performance and mood||A study published in Science Direct found that binaural beats can improve performance and mood. They used 16 and 24 Hz and negative moods were reduced, while performing better on a visual task during the session.|
|Overall quality of life||The Journal of Complementary and Alternative Medicine published a study after participants used binaural beats for 60 days. They found improvements based on survey scores where participants rated quality of life and anxiety.|
4. How Often Should You Listen to Binaural Beats?
As the studies above have shown there is not set time limits for listening to binaural beats. If comparing it to meditation, it could range from weekly to every day. The benefits of the process are driven by changing brain waves to a more relaxed state.
The more often you get into a relaxed state the less stress and anxiety you will be under. Therefore, listening to binaural beats as often as you can is advised. Certainly, the more stress you are under, the more frequently you would want to shoot for.
How Long Should You Listen to Binaural Beats?
The easy answer start with as much time as you can set aside. If that is 5 minutes, start there. Experimentation is encouraged with binaural beats. However, the research has shown that the longer you can listen for the more benefits you will see.
Creating A Habit
Our habits are largely formed by our subconscious minds. Most people don’t realize all the habits they have that are on autopilot and are not even thought about.
Daily habits allow you to realize success in small steps over time. In this case building a habit of using binaural beats will provide some of the benefits listed above. Here are simple ways to add a daily habit of listening to binaural beats.
- Make it obvious – set your headphones next to the bed
- It should be attractive – find music or sounds you enjoy, don’t settle for just anything
- Make it easy to do – get all the equipment & sounds you need ready to go ahead of time.
5. Can You Sleep While Listening to Binaural Beats?
One of the key things you should do is find a place you can relax that is distraction free. For many people that means listening in the bedroom. Having the eyes closed is also nice to help you visualize while listening.
With all that said, listening to binaural beats at night before going to bed is a great idea. You will need some type of headphones to ensure the different sound waves enter each ear. Therefore, it is best to relax and listen before falling to sleep.
Sleeping with headphones on may eventually wake you up at some point. If you prefer to fall asleep while listening to binaural beats then earbuds might be a better option for you.
6. Do Binaural Beats Work for Weight Loss?
Binaural beats have been studied and shown to have the benefits listed in the table above. The studies looking at binaural beats for weight loss have found mixed results. Therefore, this is not a silver bullet for weight loss.
Losing weight and keeping it off requires eight healthy habits.
- Healthy diet choices
- Reduce stress
- Adequate sleep
- Correct mindset
- Having a well defined sense of purpose
- Eliminate vices
- Having connection with others
While most focus is on 1 and 2 for weight loss, 3-8 are the keys to maintaining weight loss. Binaural beats are a great way to reduce stress, help with sleep, change mindset. Visualization during binaural beats sessions about purpose, connecting with others and eliminating vices it just might check off all the boxes.
It is important to remember that weight loss takes time. You probably didn’t put on excess weight in a month. Therefore don’t expect to lose it in all in such a short time either.
Seeing the outcomes you want in your mind is a powerful way to change mindset. Binaural beats put you in the perfect frame of mind for visualization. You must focus on the outcomes you desire and see what you would look in that state.
Visualization is a technique where you use your imagination to create a compelling picture of your future. If you are hoping for weight loss what does that look like to you? Are you 20 pounds lighter or are you an elite athlete with only 7% body fat? Get a picture of what you want and see it while getting into a meditative state using binaural beats.
7. What Is The Frequency for Weight Loss?
Frequencies are important to help direct the brainwaves that are required to reach the meditative state. The range of difference in frequencies recommended is listed in the table below.
|1 to 4 Hz||Delta||Deep sleep|
|4 to 8 Hz||Theta||Reduced anxiety|
|8 to 13 Hz||Alpha||Relaxation|
|14 to 30 Hz||Beta||Improved memory|
As you can see there is not set frequency that is just specifically for weight loss. However, take a look at the right side of the table. Pick the problem that you think has the biggest impact on your daily life. Start with that frequency, so you sleep better, stress less, relax more or need to think more clearly.
“Ultimately, reducing these problems will help with weight loss.”
There are some binaural beats that claim a wavelength of 295.8 Hz is optimal for weight loss. This may be a good choice to start with. Remember the other wavelength would be 1-30 Hz, plus or minus the 295.8 Hz.
8. Do Weight Loss Subliminals Really Work?
Some binaural beats have subliminal messages within the audio of the track. The idea is to help you change your subconscious mind, which is controlling much of your actions.
What are subliminal messages?
The word subliminal means below threshold. For subliminal messages that refers to being below the threshold of conscious awareness. Literally our conscious mind can’t detect these messages. However your subconscious senses them.
If binaural beats are being used in hopes of weight loss, could subliminal messages help? There have been many studies that look at subliminal messaging for weight loss. A large analysis done in 2018 found that subliminals had no impact on shedding pounds.
Keep in mind that subliminals may be able to positively impact other aspects of health. These include stress, anxiety and sleep.
9. Can Binaural Beats Damage Your Brain?
Binaural beats have been extensively studied in clinical trials. There have been little to no reported side effects. Therefore, the majority of studies suggest they are safe.
Keep in mind that long term use is always subject to different outcomes. Most studies simply do not go on for extended periods of time due to the costs.
It is important to remember that loud sounds can damage your hearing. This is especially true for listening for extended time periods. Keep the sound levels low, there is no evidence that louder binaural beats work any more effectively.
Should You Use Binaural Beats?
Clearly, binaural beats will not help with weight loss if your diet is awful and you don’t exercise. However, there is evidence binaural beats may help you in other areas that could be affecting your ability to lose weight.
Most people already have a pair of headphones. A simple google search will find binaural beats you can sample online. Doing a trial run seems like it would make sense for most people given there are few side effects and low costs.
If you want to get more advanced you can also purchase special headphones and audio files. The table below gives various options.
|1.5 ounces||Over ear||$|
|Bose Quit Comfort 35||8.3 ounces||Over ear||$$$|
|Apple AirPods||0.28 ounces||In ear||$$|
At the end of the day anything that can help improve your sleep and reduce anxiety is a good investment. Keep in mind that you should give binaural beats time to see if they work for you. Plan to use them consistently for 4 weeks to see if they have a positive effect for you.
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Share Your Story
Have you tried binaural beats? Also, please share how they worked for you. Chime in below with your comments and thoughts.
Miguel, Garcia-Argibay et al. Efficacy of binaural auditory beats in cognition, anxiety, and pain perception: a meta analysis. Psychol Res. 2019:83: 357-372.
Helane, Wahbeh, Binaural beat technology in humans: a pilot study to assess psychologic and physiologic effects. J Altern Complement Med. 2007;13: 25-32