The medicine of the future will be music and sound.
– Edgar Cayce
A Healer’s Tool: The Ear
Our world has never been noisier. The innovation and progression of technology that gave rise to the TV and Radio have now paved the way for streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music – so it’s apparent that our ears have never been more active. Yet, even when we’re not actively listening, the collective cacophony of cars, trains, busy storefronts and advertisements on our daily commutes or walks around the modern city, mean that the ear remains an ever-important tool for navigating the world around us.
Nowhere has this been more well-documented than in the collection of essays written by academic Patrick McGuiness, entitled: Beneath the Skin: Great Writers on the Body (2018). McGuiness explores the significance of our ears in today’s society – a world that, as he reminds us, our ears have never stopped listening to.
But it’s not that simple. Even during times when there’s nothing to hear, the ear will find something. So, whether we like it or not, the ear demands to hear.
The good news is: you can actively choose which sounds to listen to, in order to begin your healing journey.
Instinctual Sound: The Origins of Sound Healing
It is at 16 weeks that the developing fetus becomes aware of vibration. The eardrums and the skin are the first of our organs to become active, and we use our skin to sense vibrations too. And what’s more interesting is that the intrauterine environment is largely made up of water – which increases the speed of sound by 5x – so the developing fetus is enveloped in a world of sound before they are even born.
You could even say it is through sound that a gestating human becomes self-aware. On the topic of sound and healing, many studies have found that certain types of sounds – the heartbeat, passage of blood, respiratory sounds and even other bodily sounds, are registered deeply in the human nervous system. Indeed, these primordial sounds can be recognized by any person, irrespective of gender, race, or social status. These sounds are universal.
And even after birth, babies are receptive to the power of sound and music – that is why their songs and rhymes are similar in all cultures – with happy, sweet and melodic music to lull them into a deep sleep. Even a mother’s lullaby is universal, with every group of people, near or far, having their own version of the classic lullaby.
The notion that sound affects the health of the mind and body is nothing new. Chanting and mantra recitation have been part of Hindu spirituality and the healing power of yoga for thousands of years. Given the recent interest in mind-body medicine, it’s not in the least surprising that this ancient tradition is experiencing a modern-day renaissance.
What’s more? The sounds found in nature are also universally recognized primordial sounds. It is no coincidence that the pitter patter of rain, the crashing of ocean waves and the song of birds calms our anxious minds. These sounds are considered the basic vibrations of the universe and are often used in primordial sound meditation. This silent mantra-based technique allows you to embark on an inner journey to experience the quiet that already exists within you and reconnect to your spirit. Through this place of stillness, you will find the birthplace of happiness, creativity and possibilities. If you’re familiar with ‘Om’, a primordial chant– you’re familiar with this technique.
This brings us neatly to our main source of sound healing…
The key to understanding sound healing is to note that firstly, every tissue in the human body, and every physical object – resonates to very specific sound frequencies. What’s more, our nervous systems contain mechanisms that synchronize our neurophysiological functions and cycles with the rhythmic pulsations from the external world.
So when we think of our health in terms of what foods we consume, we should also realize that we consume sound too. And if you consume sound that is chaotic and disruptive – your nervous system will respond with high cortisol, adrenaline and overall anxiety. On the other hand, if you consume sound that is purposeful, and calming – you will balance your internal resonance. In fact, vibrational medicine is based on the idea that disease is a result of those natural resonances getting out of tune – whether due to stress, illness or environmental factors.
We’ve all seen the phenomenon of an opera singer whose voice vibrations can shatter a glass. That’s because they have matched the resonant frequency of the glass. As the singer increases the volume of their voice, the resonance overwhelms the forces that hold the glass together, so it breaks. Modern medicine has matched this with ultrasound waves that can break apart kidney stones and gallstones.
By now you know that every cell in our body has its own resonant frequency, and together – these frequencies form a composite frequency. Think of this like an Orchestra. When one organ in the body is out of tune, the whole body becomes affected. Through sound healing, it becomes possible to bring a diseased organ into harmony with the rest of the body.
The special thing about sound healing is that there is no required surgery, and no side effects. It is easily administered and can be learned by anyone willing to try. And what’s more interesting is that studies have shown that powerful vibrations from one source will cause less powerful vibrations of another source to lock into the vibration of the first source. Nature always favours the most efficient state, this is called the principle of entrainment.
This is best observed with tuning forks – a fork designed to produce a frequency of 440 Hz will “entrain” the vibration of another fork to 440 Hz if they are close together.
There is a property in all things to fall into step together. Initially, this phenomenon was described in 1665 by Dutch physicist Christiaan Huygens. He observed that when two similar clocks were placed in close proximity, their pendulums – no matter how they began swinging – would soon fall into an anti-synchrony. This means, they would eventually swing in the exact same rhythm, but in opposite directions. He called this the principle of coupled oscillation.
This synchronized pattern of movement has been further observed in intergalactic nebulae and subatomic particles – including biological systems.
Where biological systems are concerned, the phenomenon is called bio-synchronization and examples include circadian rhythms, movements of fish schools, flocks of migratory birds and even menstrual cycles among women in close proximity.
This idea has been further backed up by the US Navy in the 1950s. Researchers discovered that brainwave patterns could be controlled by strobe light stimulation.
They referred to this as “Sensory Evoked Potentials” – and it highlights the fact that the brain’s internal rhythms follow the most powerful pulse patterns. Now, since sound is one of the most powerful means of entraining our brainwave patterns, we can manipulate our internal rhythms to give us our desired outcomes.
Binaural Beats and Synchronization
A small revolution was ignited in New York in 1973, when a biophysicist named Dr. Oster at Mount Sinai Medical Center had his paper published in Scientific American. It was called “Auditory Beats in the Brain” – and he was monitoring the neurological implications of a phenomenon called “beating tones” – something that had long been recognized by both musicians and physicists.
Beating tones happen when two tones are very closely (but not precisely) turned to one another. The brain interprets the difference between the frequencies of the two tones as an audible pulse.
Dr. Oster noted that the same thing happens when people listen to the tones on headphones that are tuned to within 18% of one another. In his words, what happens is a “perceptual integration of the two signals takes place, producing the sensation of a third ‘beat’ frequency.”
As a result of these constantly increasing and decreasing differences, an amplitude-modulated standing wave—the binaural beat—is heard. The binaural beat is perceived as a fluctuating rhythm at the frequency of the difference between the two auditory inputs.
The Birth of the Binaural Beat…
The math is simple. In layman’s terms, if the left ear is fed a tone of 100 Hz, and the right ear is fed a tone at 105 Hz – the brain will perceive a “Binaural Beat” of 5 Hz.
And Dr. Oster’s most provocative finding? The brains of his subjects would entrain to these binaural beats – resulting in mild alterations of consciousness.
Binaural beats in the Delta (1 to 4 Hz) and Theta (4 to 8 Hz) brainwave ranges are associated with relaxed, meditative, and creative states. They can also lull you into a restful sleep.
Below is a table with detailed descriptions of each brainwave state and the beat ranges:
By entraining brainwaves with binaural beats using headphones, it is possible to float the brain in this state of hemispheric synchronization for prolonged periods. Each time we do this, it is like exercising a new brain function, which makes the brain more able to engage this function as its normal repertoire of behaviour
So what does this mean for us? We can strengthen our brains, making them more powerful, more synchronized and more alert with the simple act of listening to Binaural Beats.
Related to the Binaural Beat, is the Isochronic Tone. These are single tones that come on and off at regular and evenly spaced intervals. The interval is usually brief, so the repeated tone sounds like it’s pulsating. Not only does this mirror the pulses found in our biology, but it also means these tones can be used for entrainment. Unlike Binaural Beats, headphones are not necessary for listening to Isochronic Tones.
What do Isochronic Tones sound like?
The tones can be found on a variety of online channels including YouTube, and they’re usually enmeshed within the sounds of nature or relaxing music. You can also find tracks with both binaural and Isochronic tones, for maximum potency in improving several cognitive functions.
The Art and Science of Balance
Sound can be used to balance the activity of your sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system. People who are chronically stressed show sympathetic nervous system dominance – which means they cannot enter a state of relaxation, causing everything from general anxiety to insomnia.
Those with clinical depression, or frequent depressive episodes show a slightly different pattern. They are paralyzed by anxiety and inhibition – with high activity in both the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems. In other words, it’s like having your feet on the brake and the gas pedal at the same time.
Keep in mind, one third of our spinal cord consists of nerve bundles – the sole purpose of which is to sense vibrational data and send this information to the brainstem, cerebellum, medulla, hippocampus and limbic system. Our limbic system is where our emotional processing occurs.
You can manipulate the frequency shifts between your sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system with the use of Binaural Beats.
That’s because there is a direct relationship between sound frequency and specific brainwave states of consciousness. Refer to the chart on page 5 to see the five brainwave frequencies for healing. There are five healing octaves in total.
If you haven’t yet heard of Solfeggio Frequencies, you’re doing yourself a disservice.
Solmization is a system of attributing a distinct syllable to each note in a musical scale. Various forms of solmization have been used throughout the world and are still in use today, one notable example is Solfège – from which we derived our Do Re Mi Fa So La Ti system.
Solfeggio frequencies come from an ancient six-tone scale – incorporated into the spiritual music sung by choirs and Gregorian monks. In the early 11th century, an Italian Benedictine monk referred to as Guido of Arezzo, was seeking for a way to teach melodies and harmonies to monastic choirs. He developed one method, a mnemonic tool which he called the “Guidonian Hand”. His initial notations were “Ut, Re, Mi, Fa, Sol, La” – which has since evolved into the modern Do Re Mi Fa So La Ti that we use in solfège.
Dr. Masaru Emoto, the author of The Hidden Messages in Water, found that music dramatically affects the expression of water. And, since our bodies are made up of over 60-70% water, it is no wonder that Solfeggio frequencies have such potential to influence us.
Numerous studies have documented the effects of Solfeggio Frequencies. For example, in 1988 – a biochemist called Glen Rein, PhD – recorded a Solfeggio scale of Gregorian chants and converted them into audio waves. He played these frequencies to test rubes containing DNA, using UV light to measure the absorption, and even compared these sounds to other kinds of musical sounds. What he found was that Rock music had little to no influence on the light absorption, but the chants however – created an obvious increase of absorption – leading to the conclusion that the Solfeggio Sound Scale causes resonance in DNA and includes healing properties.
Other studies have shown positive effects on everything from Osteoporosis to the reduction of stress. In fact, a Japanese study published very recently in 2018 examined the specific frequency of 528 Hz on our endocrine system – and the researchers concluded that this frequency has “an especially strong stress-reducing effect, even after only five minutes of exposure”.
Below is a table with the range of Solfeggio Frequencies:
That means, that if you have only five minutes of spare time in your day, you can reduce your stress substantially And, the reduction of stress is a type of healing. It prevents every stress-related illness and blocks the over-release of stress hormones like cortisol.
Other Notable Mentions
I believe that sound can play a role in virtually any medical disorder, since it redresses imbalances on every level of physiologic functioning
– The Healing Power of Sound: Recovery from Life-Threatening Illness Using Sound, Voice and Music (Shambhala, 1999)
Classical Music: This has been proven to increase the rate of development of synaptic connections in the minds of young children. It also helps fuel creativity and enhance joy in adults. Classical music may even help address physical ailments like high blood pressure and muscle tension.
Tuning Forks: Originally used to tune musical instruments to the proper pitch, tuning forks have, in modern times been used in the medical field to detect stress fractures in large bones. Now, sound therapists use the vibrations of tuning forks to increase the amount of energy in parts of the body they are trying to heal or energize. These good vibes can support relaxation, balance our nervous systems and increase our waking energy.
Humming: According to a study conducted by Swedish researcher and published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, humming may actually help keep your sinuses clear and healthy. Plus, humming at certain frequencies may give you the specific results you’re searching for.
Singing Bowls: These can be made of metal or crystal – singing bowl sings when you run a felt-tipped mallet around its edge. Along with rhythms produced by striking the edge of the bowl, the vibrations and tones slow down breathing, brain waves and heart rates, producing a deep sense of calm and well-being.
Chanting: Chanting, the starting step in meditation, is also a way to maintain health and well-being. Much research has shown that chanting can stabilize heart rate, lower blood pressure, improve circulation, produce feel-good endorphins and aid the process of metabolism. Chanting can also help the mind focus, which alleviates stress levels. For example, repeating the syllable “om,” considered one of the most important mantras in yoga, is believed to foster a deep mental clarity and promote a sense of connectedness with a higher power.
The Healing Journey
Sound is becoming a popular method for achieving calm inner states. We can see this with the rise of the internet phenomenon of ASMR. While ASMR is well-documented in the scientific field, meaning Auto-sensory Meridian Response – it’s sudden rise to virality is evidence of Sound Healing entering the mainstream.
Most of us have heard of white noise – which is the absorption of all frequencies, and some people use this as a sleep aide in white noise machines. But surprisingly, most YouTube ASMR videos are of people performing simple and calming tasks such as brushing their hair, folding towels or whispering. For most people who do experience it, the blissful tingling starts in the scalp and makes its way through the body to the arms and legs. And as a result, it triggers a feeling of relaxation before bedtime – which can help overcome insomnia.
So, what are you waiting for? Start your unique Sound Healing journey today, from the comfort of your own home.