Headphones for Binaural Beats, Self-Hypnosis, and Subliminal Messaging

Over the past decade, there’s been a resurgence in self-improvement.  People are looking to various means to reduce stress, balance their work and home life, increase confidence, and achieve a good night’s sleep.  Through the use of meditational techniques and self-hypnosis, people are finding significant gains and solutions in this field.  What’s interesting, is in order to utilize the frequency response appropriately, a practitioner requires adequate headphones.

Binaural Beats

You’ve probably heard the term binaural beats or seen/heard several of the binaural beat videos listed on YouTube.  Initially I brushed this off years ago as pseudo-science and fictional until I did my own research.

It was first hypothesized in 1839, but in the 1900’s, Dr. Gerald Oster, a biophysicist wrote a scientific paper on how the brain interprets sound frequency.  Oster argued that these binaural beats (or brainwave entrainment” assisted animals in the ability to use sound to actually see and visualize locations within their environment and felt these sounds could be used for cognitive and neurological research on humans.

Oster then began research of binaural beats, specifically using them as not only a diagnostic tool for auditory ailments, but also other, more advanced neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s disease.  Through his research with Parkinson’s patients, he discovered that there was a direct linkage between binaural beats and the treatment of ailments.

How Binaural Beats Work

Many people believe that they can load up a video on YouTube of a Binaural Beat that specializes in a particular sound frequency that’s designed to product a physiological response in the human body; however that’s not actually the case.

A Binaural Beat occurs when one ear hears a sound frequency at one hertz level and the other ear hears a sound frequency at a different hertz level.  The difference between the two sound frequencies is what your body interprets as the binaural frequency, which your brain then produces brainwaves at that binaural frequency.  For this reason, the only way that Binaural Beats can be heard and perceived through the brain is by using headphones where different sound frequencies can be sent simultaneously to both ears.

A colleague of mine, Sanders Whitley has a web site dedicated to meditation and meditation music.  He’s explored the use of Binaural Beats through medication music and has created some interesting playlists that utilize this technology.  I suggest if you’re interested in using Binaural Beats, then you might want to check out his playlists.

Subliminal and Supraliminal Messaging

In the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, the term Subliminal Messaging became a craze in the news media. Heavy metal music bands were blamed for so-called embedding of subliminal messaging into their albums, as teenagers, who were listening to these albums at the time, committed horrific crimes. The hype or paranoia of subliminal messaging continues to today with many heavy metal and alternate bands being blamed and put on trial for these subliminal messages.

What’s important to note, is the difference between subliminal and supraliminal messaging.  There’s three distinct types of subliminal messaging – Subvisual, Subaudible, and Backmasking.

  • Subvisual deals with the flashing of visual messages faster that most people can actually see. Television commercials have been blamed for this in the past, however it’s now illegal for this type of advertising (I guess it works?).
  • Subaudible deals with auditory recordings that are over-layered, or inserted below the audible frequency range of the human ear (20 Hz – 20,000 Hz).  Remember, that if the audio track is a full-spectrum track, subliminal messages can be embedded within the actual audio frequency range, as your ear will likely not make them out – especially if
    they’re very good and match the highs/lows of music to the audio signal (waves, thunder, rain, etc.).  This type of messaging is used ALL THE TIME for self improvement and meditation.  In fact, this is so popular, that people can actually make their own subliminal messaging for self-improvement with various software programs like Audacity.

Subliminal message within an audio track

  • Backmasking is similar to Subaudible messaging, except they’re over-layered or inserted into the audio track “backwards” so someone needs to play the track backwards to hear the message. The thought is that your brain can hear and understand the backward audio track and can comprehend it. Personally, I think this is a stretch, as the message is literally garbled when played forward – much like hearing a foreign language and people will try to believe they hear something that really doesn’t exist when being played forward.  I’ve used some pretty advanced audio equipment in the past to analyze some of the backmasking messages and I never heard what the news media was saying.

There’s been a lot of research over the past thirty to forty years to determine the effectiveness of subliminal and supraliminal messaging, with two camps emerging.  The first camp believes that repeated exposure to subliminal messaging will cause a person to become susceptible to the message. For example, if your computer screen flashed the message “Grab a Pepsi”, you might find after a while that you really want a Pepsi – Or you might not.  The same with subaudible messaging, where someone repeatedly hears a message that influences you, such as “you are a confident person” and the user gradually becomes more confident after listening to the message repeatedly.

Supraliminal Messaging on the other hand is similar to a subtle nudge in the right direction.  Unlike subliminal messaging, supraliminal messages use a form of messaging that people notice and this is used in the retail industry every year because of its success.  Walk into any major department store in the month of December and what music do you hear playing?  I’d bet its Christmas music.  What do people associate with Christmas?  Christmas trees, exchanging gifts, smiles, family, food.  This produces a pleasant effect on an individual and can cause someone to remember past events, like a wonderful Christmas dinner or experience with family and friends. 

Supraliminal messaging is also used in magazine adds – especially in the diet and fitness industry.  They use specific lighting, airbrushing, models and color to highlight specific things to subconsciously have an individual think about a particular item.  THAT supplement is what they used; THAT treadmill was all that was needed to lose those 20lbs; IF I take THAT pill, I’ll have 6-pack abs.  But supraliminal messaging can also use specific words to highlight what they want the reader to focus on.  If I show you a picture of the milky way with a title Stars so Bright, you naturally focus on the bright stars in the image.

Brainwave States

Over the years, there’s been a tremendous amount of research put into auditory frequencies and brainwaves. Scientists have been able to discern five (5) distinct states of brainwaves.

Brainwave Frequencies

  • Delta Waves – Delta waves are the slowest waves recorded in the brain.  These brainwaves occur when someone has entered deep sleep and tend to be associated with healing the human body.  When people have normal levels of Delta waves, they tend to be more empathetic and compassionate towards others.  When people enter the state of lucid dreaming and astral projection, they’re doing so within this state.
  • Theta Waves – Theta waves occur when an individual moves to REM sleep or within deep meditation.  Scientist have measured the brainwave patterns of people as they enter psychic or spiritual trances and noticed exceptionally high levels of Theta wave activity.  When people have a healthy amount of theta activity, they generally experience a more restful sleep and are more susceptible to mental suggestions and stimuli, as both hemispheres of the brain function in tandem.
  • Alpha Waves – These brainwaves occur throughout the day when you’re doing something that’s routine (like brushing your teeth, vacuuming, etc.) and doesn’t require much mental thought.  It’s in this state that individuals naturally daydream and because of this, people are very succeptible to mental suggestions and stimuli.  High Theta wave activity has been associated with a reduction in stress and anxiety, pain and discomfort, and an increase in motivation and energy.
  • Beta Waves – Alpha and Beta brainwaves are your most common, with Beta waves being the predominate brainwave when you’re awake and undertaking activities that require concentration and analytical thinking.  Because this brainwave is associated with the “flight or fight” response, it’s also associated with anxiety, stress, and insomnia, likely due to the release of adrenaline.
  • Gamma Waves – Little is known about these brainwaves, but it’s believed that when an individual discovers a breakthrough or solves an extremely complex problem, that they’ve actually achieved activation of the Gama state.  It’s also in this state that individuals are able to transcend all other states.

Self Hypnosis

You’ve all seen the videos or tales of the magician that hypnotizes someone into thinking they’re a chicken or they plant a message in an individual while they’re under a hypnotic trance.  This occurs when someone is experiencing high Theta Wave activity. 

With self-hypnosis, there is no magician or hypnotist present to guide the participant into the hypnotic state – it occurs through an audio recording.  In these recordings, individual are relaxed and brought down into a hypnotic state where they received auditory messages for improvement. 

Self-Hypnosis can be undertaken in your home, as long as you can find a quit place where you’re not likely to be disturbed.  In many cases, self-hypnosis is blended with what’s called “sleep hypnosis” where the session ends with bringing the individual up to a sleeping state, rather than bringing them to a waking state with hypnosis.

So Many Choices

Headphones and ear buds are ideal for use with binaural beats, as they can effectively push one sound frequency to one ear while simultaneously pushing a second sound frequency to the other ear.  What’s important with binaural beats is to ensure there’s no background noise that might generate a different frequency or interfere with one of the frequencies being listened to.  For this reason, I’d highly recommended utilizing noise-cancellation headphones with binaural beats, but if you can’t afford a good pair, then decent quality ear buds will be a close second.

Headphones can also be used with self-hypnosis and subliminal messaging, however because many messages are embedded outside the normal range of hearing, people who want to get the most of their subliminal programming should look for headphones that span a wide frequency spectrum, outside that of the normal range of hearing, such as something that can pick-up audio frequencies within the 10-20 Hz range.

If you plan to use headphones for sleep hypnosis, it’s important to find a comfortable pair that you can sleep with.  A lot of people use noise cancellation headphones to help them sleep, but in this case, it’s mostly a comfort thing, as hypnosis and self-hypnosis are not affected by outside noises or sounds.  If you find yourself tossing and turning while you sleep, or sleeping on your side, then headphones won’t really work for you with sleep hypnosis.  In this case, I recommend ear buds that insert into the ear canals and ideally have a rubber or silicon sleeve to help the ear buds stay in place.  This way you can move around in your sleep and not have your headphones come off your head.

Personally, I prefer earbuds as I enjoy listening to sleep hypnosis for self-improvement and I find a toss and turn a lot in my sleep.  If I have some quiet time during the day and want to listen to binaural beats, then I opt for my noise cancellation headphones.

What are your thoughts?  Have you used headphones or earbuds while listening to self-improvement recordings?  Hopefully you now know that you can’t get the effect of binaural beats without a good set of headphones and the same goes for subliminal messages!

7 thoughts on “Headphones for Binaural Beats, Self-Hypnosis, and Subliminal Messaging

  • May 21, 2018 at 10:23 pm

    Hi Dave,
    Lots of really great information here. I have been messing around with the self-hypnosis and meditations for a long time and you make some great points about the headphones and earbuds. I have also heard that you can listen to binaural beats thru your speakers (monaural beats) and that they can be almost as effective. Your thoughts?

  • May 22, 2018 at 2:08 am

    Wow! I did not know a thing about binaural beats until I came across this article. So much information here.
    I always loved my headphones for music when I was younger, but to listen to a self improvement or hypnosis tutorial I would use ear buds as more comfortable to lie down in bed.. Interesting! I just hope they don’t continue to put across messages within music without people even knowing.. freaky!

    • May 22, 2018 at 7:23 pm

      It’s always possible that someone could do that, which is why if you’re interested in self hypnosis/improvement or anything like that, you want to buy from a reputable source.

  • May 24, 2018 at 4:27 am

    This is quite an interesting article, didn’t know anything about backmasking, it sounds really interesting, but probaly fake, it would be too much work for the brain and it would be already occupied with the main message.
    But the rest sound plausible, like subvisual, even if normally you wouldn’t react to the flashing images, the brain would make some kind of connection and you would direct you towards what’s being flashed.

  • May 24, 2018 at 8:37 am

    This is some great information! I have read a little about binaural beats before, and your article explains all this so well. Have you ever tried self hypnosis?

    • May 24, 2018 at 5:26 pm

      Hi Alyssa, yes, I’ve tried meditational recordings, binaural beats, and self-hypnosis for deep and restful sleep. Not sure how effective it was, but I sure slept good. 🙂

  • June 26, 2018 at 3:30 am

    Hi Dave. This is such an interesting post so thank you so much for writing this. I use a lot of subliminal and binaural music at various times and I find them really useful. I use a lot of subliminal music at night time and sleep well every night.
    I find that some of the binaural recordings can give me a headache after a while but maybe that’s because I’m not using the right headphones. Are there any headphones you particularly recommend?


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