Damn You, Heinrich Wilhelm Dove
In 1839, Heinrich Wilhelm Dove discovered the phenomenon of the binaural beat and inadvertently cursed the internet with one of it’s most persistent pseudo-science institutions: the digital drug.
The brain produces a phenomenon resulting in low-frequency pulsations in the loudness of a perceived sound when two tones at slightly different frequencies are presented separately, one to each of a subject’s ears, using stereo headphones. A beating tone will be perceived, as if the two tones mixed naturally, out of the brain. The frequency of the tones must be below about 1,000 to 1,500 hertz for the beating to be heard. The difference between the two frequencies must be small (below about 30 Hz) for the effect to occur; otherwise the two tones will be heard separately and no beat will be perceived.
It’s a real effect, and there is some talk that it can have neurological effects. That’s great for neuroscientists, but not so great for the rest of us. The problem is that the quack medicine community loves nothing more than a little actual science to hang it’s products on. Magnetic belt, anyone?
So far, the most popular angle is to generate several different binaural beat frequencies, and randomly assign effects to them, such as enhanced creativity, energy levels, or meditative peace.
On the plus side, it’s relatively harmless, unlike drinking a flask of molasses spiked with mercury like back in the good old days of miracle bromides and nerve tonics. Also, since some brainwave entrainment may occur at some frequencies, you may actually find a binaural beat that is pleasant and mood enhancing. Of course, the same thing can be said for regular music, which has been used to alter and enhance moods since the dawn of time.
Of course, all of this is just my opinion. Some folks swear by it, so sample some for yourself:
Or mix your own: