Do Binaural Beats Work Without Headphones? - WBCB: The Valley's CW |

Do Binaural Beats Work Without Headphones?


If you’ve recently started exploring the benefits of binaural beats, you may wonder if you need a good pair of headphones to realize the full effects of the recordings.

The short answer is yes. And I’d go so far as to say that binaural beats are best experienced using quality headphones.

For binaural beats to work, each ear must receive a different frequency.

Binaural beats produce brainwave entrainment, which is a psychological response to a pulsing sound, light or electromagnetic field. When the mechanism used is sound, the intention is to produce an auditory illusion, enabled by playing tones of two different frequencies in each ear.

How Do Different Frequency Tones Affect the Ears?

The brain perceives a third tone which is the mathematical difference between the two frequencies. For instance, if a 200 Hz sound frequency is transmitted to your right ear, and a 210 Hz frequency to your left ear, your brain will process those two frequencies and perceive a new frequency at 10 Hz. Your brain will then follow along at this new 10 Hz frequency in what is termed as a ‘frequency following response.’

Your brain needs to receive sound frequencies at the same time.

What is the best way to ensure that you receive the binaural beat frequencies at the same time and each ear receives two different frequencies? By listening with headphones.

If you were to listen to the recording without headphones, here’s what would happen:

  • Both your ears will hear mixed frequencies, preventing the brain from detecting the binaural beat
  • There is a risk that other sounds in your immediate surrounding will interfere with the experience
  • The frequency is chosen to suit the specific advantage it intends to deliver; the beat frequency may also change many times during a session.

For maximum benefits, your brain should detect the third binaural beat at a specific frequency, which may not be possible if you’re listening through a speaker.

The logic is simple: in the absence of headphones and even in a quiet room, the frequencies will fill the room and mix together, defeating the purpose of the binaural beat. Those who say that brainwave entrainment is possible using speakers are perhaps sitting between speakers and at proximity to them. They will have to position their bodies correctly to the speakers to experience the desired effect.

The use of speakers may make sense for another brainwave entrainment tool: isochronic tones. This is because isochronic tones comprise a single pulsating tone to enter the right and left hemispheres of the brain. On the other hand, binaural beats offer the most pronounced effects when heard through headphones.

Different Ways to Leverage Binaural Beats

Improve attention: Binaural beats have been seen to improve focus and promote sustained attention. If you’re easily distracted, have a short attention span or just want to double down on your ability to focus intensely, gamma (40 Hz) binaural beats or beta (16-24 Hz) binaural beats may be helpful.

Enhance memory: Studies suggest that alpha (8-13 Hz) binaural beats could increase working memory capacity the ability to hold different types of information for processing which is helpful in reasoning and guiding decision-making as well as behavior. There are also studies indicating the influence of beta binaural beats on improving long-term memory.

Better mood and emotional responses: A pilot study found that listening to theta (7 Hz) binaural beats can lower tension, fatigue, and confusion. Another concluded that beta binaural beats increased positive mood and decreased depressive tendencies.

There are numerous other benefits of binaural beats, as suggested by studies, including:

  • Helping you transition into a deeply meditative state
  • Increasing cognitive flexibility, that is, helping you to multi-task more effectively
  • Improving sleep quality
  • Enhancing divergent thinking, boosting your ability to develop different answers to a question
  • Reducing the feeling of pain in individuals living with chronic pain conditions

Since the 1970s, the number of brainwave entrainment techniques has exploded, encompassing audio beats, strobe lights, and electromagnetic fields. For convenient, at-home therapy, binaural beats are an effective and affordable solution. Anyone who has experienced the full benefits of brainwave entrainment through binaural beats recordings will tell you how important it is to use a good pair of headphones.

Not Any Headphone Will Do

Earphones and headphones each offer unique advantages. While the sound quality of headphones trumps that of earphones, they can get sweaty and uncomfortable if you use them for running or jogging. However, as far as binaural beats are concerned, headphones are a better bet than earphones.

That’s not all. You want to invest in a pair of quality headphones to make the most of the advantages of binaural beats.

Quality matters for several reasons, the most important being:

  • The beats will sound brighter and crisper, inducing a frequency following response more quickly, and allowing for a productive session every time.
  • You may get a better soundstage, which is the aural picture of the recording, and basically offers a 3D, higher-quality sound image. While it may not amount to much for binaural beats, it will elevate your listening experience of other types of sounds and music.
  • High-end phones are made from sturdy material and can, therefore, promise better durability than their cheaper counterparts.

They also tend to offer more features, such as noise cancellation and wireless audio. Noise cancellation would support brainwave entrainment, keeping unwanted sounds out (depending on the environment) and ensuring that your ears receive only the binaural beats frequencies.


You need headphones for binaural beats to draw your brain into a third frequency and respond to it. Headphones enable your brain to detect the acoustic difference, which is necessary to induce the targeted effect in the first place.

To resonate to the frequency that will deliver the benefits you seek, you are better off using quality headphones. A noise-canceling product will help you realize the best value from this soundwave therapy.

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