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Many companies are making daring affirmations that binaural beats work like “digital drugs” to “biohack” your brain, that have the power to unlock your memory and creativity while keeping away stress, headaches and insomnia. An entire industry has sprung up around the concept.
But the evidence for binaural beats’ therapeutic powers is not at all conclusive. A lot of big claims have been made without adequate verification.
They may boost our attention span, calm our anxiety and promote pain relief, although evidence is still insufficient. Studies showed that the effects increased the longer people listened.
But whatever mechanism is creating these changes remains unknown.
You can hear these beats best with a pair of good headphones. When each ear picks up a slightly different pitch, the brain tries to compensate and finds a frequency somewhere in the middle. This supposedly causes both hemispheres of the brain to harmonize their brainwaves, a phenomenon called neural entrainment.
Brainwaves are the regular patterns that firing neurons create in our brains, so binaural beats could be bringing these rhythmic patterns into alignment (some research still debates this).
There’s no substantial confirmation they can make anyone smarter, sleep better or cleanse their chakras. Research into the anxiety-relieving or sleep-bringing, or any other claim is yet to be done, meaning that we have no evidence for these things beyond anecdotes.
They seem safe to try though: binaural beats are noninvasive, and there are no known side effects from listening to them, aside from potential hearing loss if the volume is too high.
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