The Science Behind Healing With Sound



By Kathryn Drury Wagner


In the realm of healing techniques, sound work inhabits a curious space. It has been used for thousands of years—think of overtone chanting from Central Asia, for example—yet, it’s also on the frontiers of modern neuroscience.

Joshua Leeds, the author of The Power of Sound and an expert in the field of psychoacoustics, the study of the effects of sound on the human nervous system, explains how sound works by:

…creating a frequency and vibration for someone that’s conducive for him or her to heal. Sound healing is trending up. It’s like where yoga was 15 years ago. People are realizing that sound is a viable medium to address distress, enhance learning, even work with an autistic child.

Sound has been used for healing for thousands of years
Sound like overtone chanting has been used for thousands of years for healing.

Brain-wave Entrainment

Much of the current work is based on the early 70s research of biophysicist Gerald Oster. Oster showed that when a tone is played in one ear and a slightly different tone is played in the other ear, the difference causes the brain to create a third, internal tone, called a binaural beat. The theory is that this syncs the brain waves in both hemispheres, a process dubbed “brain-wave entrainment”.

Carol Moore, marketing director of Monroe Products, which makes Hemi-Sync verbal meditations and music that contain embedded binaural beats, says:

When the brain is in synchronicity, there’s more focus. Our sleep titles help drop you into the deep delta waves. Electrical activity in the brain gets slowed down.

Syncing brain waves in both hemispheres
Brain-wave entrainment is when sound syncs the brain waves in both hemispheres.

Recovery from Serious Illness

Some of the products are designed to help people recover from a stroke or surgery, deal with chronic pain, or become more relaxed while undergoing chemotherapy.

You might envision the drugs as a love potion, rather than poison.

She describes it as creating a state where you can say, ‘This is coming into my body to heal me, not to do damage to me’.

Sound can be used to help people recover
Sound can be used to help people recover from serious medical conditions.

The Synchronicity of Sound

Brain-wave entrainment isn’t without its skeptics, but some research supports it. In 2008, the journal Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine published a review of 20 studies of brain-wave entrainment and patient outcomes. The conclusion was that brain-wave entrainment is an effective tool to use on cognitive functioning deficits, stress, pain, headaches, and premenstrual syndrome.

The studies also suggest that sound work can help with behavioral problems. Bill Harris, who created Holosync products, says:

Different brain-wave patterns affect emotions.

Sound improves emotional problems
Research suggests that sound can help people cope better with emotions.

Raising the Vibration

His system uses sounds like rain and crystal bowls—there’s no beat or melody—with a pulsing tone underneath. He also uses custom affirmations, which people record in their own voices.

You’re practicing going into a brain-wave pattern. It causes the brain to organize at a more complex level. It takes what you can handle emotionally and intellectually and pushes it higher. I’m not claiming this cures cancer. But it does have a profound effect on people’s physical health. A lot of people come to us for chronic pain, irritable bowel syndrome, psoriasis, things that are exacerbated by stress.

Sound has a healing vibration
Sound has a healing vibration that can work on all parts of the body.

Music for Healing

Sound can increase immunity and treat insomnia, according to Jamie Bechtold, a Los Angeles-based sound healer. She says that:

Most people come to me for stress and anxiety.

For woes like pulled muscles, colds, and headaches, Bechtold uses tuning forks on acupuncture points, and also combines gong performances with yoga classes.

I’ve seen back muscles that are spasming completely relax using this vibration. Recorded music is fine, but with live music you can feel it. The floor is vibrating. The sound waves are bouncing all over the place.

Music improves a variety of ailments
Music has been shown to improve a variety of ailments.

Elevating with Frequencies

Jeffrey Thompson, founder of the Center for Neuroacoustic Research, says different frequencies target the various densities in the body. He uses a vibroacoustic sound therapy table.

As the frequencies slow down, from 500 to 400 hertz (a hertz is one cycle per second), you feel it more in your muscles, then your joints, then in your bones. We can give a vibrational massage, down all the way to your cells. I can do cranial work with sound, work on organs. You’re finding frequencies to elevate the body’s cells to a super-healing state, rebuilding more tissue.

According to Leeds, the future of sound will be frequency medicine:

There’s more on sound science than ever before. We know what is happening molecularly. What we think of as sound healing will be called frequency medicine.

The Science Behind Healing With Sound