Tinnitus is a buzzing, whistling, or whining sound within the brain. It is a sound without a noise present just as some chronic pain is sensation with no physical source. Although these sounds are called "phantom" they are created within the brain and are very real to the person hearing them. Interestingly enough binaural beats are an auditory illusion created by the brain when it tries to reconcile two competing frequencies. So can an auditory illusion, binaural beats, ease a phantom sound, tinnitus?
Binaural means hearing or having both ears. A binaural beat is the difference registered when two ears listen to two different frequencies. In other words if your right ear hears a frequency at 100 Hertz (Hz) and your left ear hears a frequency at 110 Hz, your brain creates a third sound that corresponds to the difference of 10 Hz. This difference become a throbbing or pulsing sound. It sounds a bit uncomfortable, but this difference actually creates the same relaxed or rested zone that many people achieve with meditation. In fact, listening to binaural beats while meditating is thought to produce a deeper and more intense experience.
Obviously, you need headphones to create a binaural beat. Other requirements to create a binaural beat are that the frequencies, which are described by Hertz (Hz), can't be higher than 1500 Hz or have a difference between them greater than 40 Hz.
So how does the invention of an auditory illusion help ease tinnitus? Though there are studies being conducted on this, at this moment one of the biggest ways is in easing stress. This exposure to chronic stress can play a big part in the deterioration of the body. And, as it turns out, chronic stress can actually cause or worsen hearing loss and tinnitus. It does this by messing with sleep, brain functions, and concentration. Binaural beats have been shown to enhance brain function, concentration, help with sleep, and alleviate stress. In other words, binaural beats works by combating not tinnitus itself by those things that contribute to an increase in tinnitus.
The best thing about binaural beats is that you don't have to actively listen to experience the benefits. You can pop on your headphones turn on a binaural beat and go about your regular work. Your brain will do the rest. In addition to binaural beats there are hearing aid programs that work to ease stress and the awareness of tinnitus. Widex's Zen program uses, "Fractal tones (ZEN) delivered in a discreet, inconspicuous and convenient manner, designed to both relax and provide acoustic stimulation."
Below is an example of a popular Youtube binaural beat video. Enjoy!!
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