Sound Therapy for Memory

Sound therapy for memory

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By: Dr. Eeks ( follow on Instagram) 

Is there a natural way you can improve memory? Most likely and I’ll try to write about many of them in the blog. One thing you can try is binaural stimulation. Some call it a form of sound therapy for memory. Several studies have shown that listening to sounds presented in a certain sequence and frequencdy can improve a specific type of memory. The beauty of this approach is that all you have to do is listen. You don’t have to swallow anything, like a pill or supplement, so there are no serious side effects to worry about.

My interest in different types of sound therapy stemmed from being very sensitive to sounds. I started observing how different sounds made me feel and what they did to my breathing rate, heart rate, ability to focus, ability to reason, sleep and more. It’s really quite fascinating. On a basic level, you might notice how sounds affect you: loud drums or a strong beat when you’re trying to sleep; a car alarm or construction sound that just won’t stop; a babbling brook in the forest; the sound of crickets at night. Take a moment to think about how those different sounds affect your physiology and demeanor. This exercise in observation led me to try out multiple kinds of sound therapy: sound baths, working with a music therapist, sound retreats in nature, and finally to binaural stimulation and in-phase sequencing. That might sound overly nerdy or complex, but those two things form the science of ZENTones, or what I offer on my website here.

Sometimes finding the right sounds for the right outcome is tricky. I had an Algebra teacher who played classical music during our examinations to see if it impacted performance. Could sounds improve our test scores? Is sound therapy for memory really a thing? Could listening to certain tones, beats or frequencies get me better grades? Could it help folks with ADHD?

I found the classical music distracting. Subjectively, it irritated me and didn’t help me to perform better. At least one study ( albeit a small one) supports what I experienced. That is why it’s important to create sound therapy programs that stay as close to the sound interventions used in randomized controlled trials. You want to use what is proven to work. (If you have any questions about the science behind binaural acoustics, please my FAQ section.)

Can sound therapy really improve memory? Are binaural beats useful for remembering more and forgetting less?  

Well, I think it’s worth a try.

A study conducted at Virginia Tech and published in Plos One analyzed whether listening to binaural acoustic stimulations at frequencies 5 Hz, 10 Hz, 15 Hz or classical music would affect working memory in adults (ages 19-46). Working memory is the brain’s system in control of processing and organizing information so you can reason, comprehend and make goal-oriented decisions. All of the adults wore headphones, because as already mentioned, headphones are required for binaural beats to work. One frequency was presented to the left ear, another frequency was presented to the right ear, and the difference between the two frequencies was the frequency of the binaural beat. The binaural beat doesn’t exist in space like its two “parent” frequencies, which is why many refer to it as a phantom beat. Different states of mood and alertness are associated with each frequency, and the exact mechanism of action is mysterious. The most common explanation is “brainwave entrainment” but that is not proven. A growing body of research suggests it is a much more global and systemic effect, involving the parasympathetic nervous system and more.

Results of the study showed that binaural stimulation at 15 Hz significantly improved the accuracy of working memory, whereas the 5 Hz, 10 Hz and classical music negatively impacted working memory by reducing accuracy. 15 Hz is categorized as a Beta wave, and pure Beta waves are associated with improved concentration and focus. But this study is good news if you are looking for a natural way to improve memory. While we need more research, it potentially means that merely listening to sounds can improve memory. No “real” work, just listening.

Another study involving sound therapy for memory showed the importance of using the right frequency for the desired outcome. Participants who listened to binaural beta waves showed a significant improvement in their long-term memory, but participants who listened to binaural theta waves showed a significant decrease in memory. . Different frequencies for different outcomes.  Another albeit smaller pilot study showed that binaural beats at the correct frequency can improve long-term memory.

The take-away on sound therapy for memory:

Will listening to binaural arrangements of beta frequencies improve your memory and/or ability to focus? Will studying be easier? Will you get better grades? Will you remember things easier at work? Maybe. Everyone is different, confounding factors are everywhere, and a lot more research needs to be done to hash out the most optimal protocols. But given that there are no major side effects, this type of  sound therapy is worth a shot. Today there is an epidemic of “smart pills,” where otherwise healthy people take prescription stimulant pills for ADHD with hopes of achieving better grades. These pills have a slew of side effects and aren’t anything I’d put in my body. Side effects include mood changes, anxiety, insomnia, addiction, fluctuations in appetite and weight, and serious heart problems. (Subjectively, I think these pills cause a person to look older than his/her age, but that may have something to do with the deleterious effects on sleep.) Furthermore, a study of 898 college students shows that the pills  did not help students increase their GPAs or gain an advantage over their peers.  In fact, students who didn’t take smart pills had significantly higher increases in their GPAs.

So…, a slew of side effects and not a significant increase in GPA? Nah. No thanks. I’ll stick to natural. But that’s just me.  😉

Want to try custom-made Binaural Beats?

Feel free to try out our ZENTones for stress or our ZENTones for sleep. Remember to utilize them as relaxation tools. The sound therapy programs come as links directly to your inbox so you can try them out right away. If you have any questions, please contact me and ask!

Curious about how sound therapy might help for stress?

Read my blog on binaural beats for stress here.

Also, I hope you check out my health podcast, which I’m happy to report is increasing in popularity! I feel good about that and thank all of you guys for the support. 🙂 It’s called Causes or Cures.  Check out some of the guests and topics and hope you subscribe! 🙂

Be safe, curious and kind out there,



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