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In keeping with my theme on healing frequencies (I wrote here on chromotherapy and here on vibrational therapy), next up is audible sound. As anyone who has both been to a classical piano concert and also been awakened by the sound of a jackhammer can attest, audible sound can be healing or not, depending upon frequency and intensity.

Vibration vs Sound Therapy

There’s a significant overlap between audible sound and vibration, of course. The primary difference between them is the medium through which the sound waves propagate—the former through air, to ultimately vibrate the tympanic membranes inside our ears, and the latter through our body tissues. Audible sound creates vibration too, but not all frequencies that create vibration can be perceived by our eardrums. Typically, whole body vibration is at 30-40 Hz or below, while vibroacoustic therapy ranges from 30-120 Hz.

Because of this overlap in frequencies, the effects of vibration and sound therapy likewise overlap, primarily both enhancing blood flow. Since blood carries oxygen and nutrients and eliminates metabolic waste, the healing is in the blood. Anything that enhances blood flow can likewise have beneficial effects.

Since the body operates via electricity, and there is always an electric field surrounding any flow of electrons from any source, some speculate that sound vibration brings about healing by interacting with the human biofield, or the electrical field surrounding the body.

Sound Therapy Improves Parasympathetic Tone

Most of us intuitively understand the power of music to put us in a calmer mood. Other forms of sound therapy, such as tuning fork therapy, Tibetan singing bowls, and binaural beats can have a similar effect, producing symptomatic changes consistent with parasympathetic (“rest and digest”) tone, as opposed to sympathetic (“fight or flight”).

These changes include decreased blood pressure, heart rate, and respiratory rate, as well as decreased tension, depression, and anxiety.

Salivary amylase, a digestive enzyme released into the saliva, likewise increases, consistent with a “rest and digest” state.

Heart rate variability, a marker for resilience as well as reduced stress, increases as well, as does cognitive function.

Brain Wave Synchrony from Sound Therapy

Certain frequencies of sound can also synchronize brain waves. Binaural beats are when one frequency plays in one ear, and a different frequency plays in the other; the difference between the two can fall into the low frequency range of calming brain waves, putting the listener in a correspondingly relaxed state—usually theta (drowsy meditation) or even delta (sleep) waves.

This study shows that participants achieved delta brain waves from singing bowl therapy.

Sound Therapy for Pain

Since pain is often associated with agitation and a “fight-or-flight” state, it’s not surprising that a more parasympathetic state can lead to reduced pain.

This study shows that low frequency sound stimulation leads to clinically significant improvement in pain for fibromyalgia patients.

This study shows that Tibetan singing bowl meditation leads to reduced physical pain in general.

The Upshot

In our household, we nearly always have relaxing nature YouTube videos on as background noise—waves, rain, waterfalls, birds chirping, and the like. There are innumerable free binaural beat videos available too, or music albums specifically designed to train the brain to synchronize to alpha, theta, or delta waves. Classical music or jazz also works! Choose to create a peaceful environment whenever possible.