Audio-Induced Focus: How Binaural Beats Can Enhance our Concentration and Creativity When Working and Studying

A man wearing headphones and looking at a laptop
By Elias Treumann | November 2nd, 2021

We live in a world of permanent distraction. Because of our heavy dependence on technology in a digitized society, we are subject to a constant onslaught of news, notifications, and messages in every minute of our waking lives. On average, when our phone is nearby, we are able to focus for only forty seconds on a particular task before being distracted or interrupted. Studies have shown (Huang, Charyton) that binaural beats can have a positive effect on our attention span, long-term memory performance, and susceptibility to anxiety, making them a valuable tool for students. 

Binaural beats are an auditory illusion created by two tones played separately on each ear, ideally using headphones and found on every popular streaming platform like Spotify, Youtube or others. The slight difference in frequency between these two tones creates the illusion of a third tone with a frequency equal to the difference between the two initial tones. This third tone is called a binaural beat. For example, two tones of 395 Hz and 400 Hz would produce a binaural beat with a frequency of 5 Hz. The effects of the binaural beat differ depending on their varying frequencies, corresponding to the cerebral area they stimulate: alpha waves signify a relaxed but awake state in a frequency of 8-12 Hz, theta waves are common in lighter stages of sleep with frequencies between 4-7 Hz, whereas delta waves align with brain waves associated with deep sleep at frequencies between 0.5-4 Hz. 

Although scientific research into binaural beats is still relatively new and a limited amount of studies have been released on the subject, they all indicate that regular exposure to binaural beats has a similar effect on the brain as meditation, a practice in which our attention is focused inward to deliberately enhance a state of calmness. This can have significant health benefits as it reduces the harmful effects of stress on the body; when we are constantly alert and under pressure, our adrenal glands produce the hormone cortisol in excessive amounts, possibly contributing to a faster heart and respiratory rate, headaches, depression or anxiety. Meditation delivers stress relief via its effect on the sympathetic nervous system, which regulates the spikes in heart rate and the hormonal responses to stress. Through actively turning our attention inward, the sympathetic nervous system becomes less active, which we experience as a state of lower stress. Studies have even suggested meditation is a useful tool in treating depression. Through the slight alteration of our brain waves through audio, we can achieve much of the same positive effects, as the illusion is capable of nudging our hormonal response in certain directions by limiting the release of stress hormones and enhancing the release of, for example, melatonin. 

All in all, this makes binaural beats a valuable tool for students seeking to find more calmness in their everyday lives and enhance their focus and concentration during studying. There is still much to learn about the concept of auditory illusions that correspond to human brain waves; however, these initial studies have shown promising results about the effectiveness and value of binaural beats with regard to relieving some of the pressure on our overstimulated minds.

Works Cited (accessed on 16.10.2021, 21:10 pm) (accessed on 16.10.2021, 20:45 pm) (accessed on 28.10.2021, 11:30 am) (accessed on 28.10.2021, 11:10 am)

 “A Comprehensive Review of the Psychological Effects of Brainwave Entrainment”, Tina L Huang, PHD, and Christine Charyton, PHD, 2008.