November 20, 2023
The practice of using sound to promote mental and physical well-being goes back at least 40,000 years to indigenous Australians playing wind instruments called didgeridoos. Today, many forms of sound therapy are practiced worldwide. Here’s a look at some of them.
The best-known, most structured, and most researched type of sound therapy is music therapy.
Music therapy can involve writing, playing, listening to, and/or discussing music as well as singing and/or dancing. Sessions can be either one-on-one with a therapist or group-based, and they are conducted in a variety of settings, including therapists' offices, community health centers, hospitals, physical therapy practices, rehabilitation facilities, long-term care facilities, and even prisons.
Music therapy serves as a mood-enhancing practice that assists individuals in coping with various mental and physical health conditions, including:
• Mental health disorders
• Chronic pain
• Cardiac conditions
• Respiratory problems
• Traumatic brain injuries
• Alzheimer’s disease
• Rehabilitating from an injury or medical procedure
Research suggests that music therapy can be beneficial when combined with other treatments such as talk therapy and medication.
Just as a regular bath immerses you in water, a sound bath immerses you in soothing sound waves. The sounds usually come from instruments that can produce long, resonant tones. These include gongs, singing bowls, drums, tuning forks, and didgeridoos.
Sound baths typically last anywhere from five minutes to an hour, and can be experienced in a group setting, one-on-one with a practitioner, or by yourself using a digital recording.
An observational study of Tibetan singing bowl meditation found that it had a positive effect on the subjects’ mood, tension, anxiety, physical pain, and spiritual well-being.
This unique approach to sound therapy uses sound to generate vibrations directed at your body. The vibrations usually come from speakers embedded in furniture, such as chairs or benches. They can also can come from other devices, such as one that resembles a backpack and produces vibrations that coincide with the music playing through your headphones.
A small study of female fibromyalgia patients found that vibroacoustic therapy reduced their pain, increased their range of motion, and allowed them to sleep better.
Binaural beat therapy uses different sound frequencies played in the ears. The tone is called the binaural beat.
Several studies on binaural beat therapy have found it has health benefits, especially related to anxiety, mood, and performance. However, this sound therapy approach is still considered to be experimental by medical professionals and should not replace traditional treatments.
To create a binaural beat, the tones must have frequencies of less than 1,000 hertz and differ from each other by no more than 30 hertz. Many binaural beats are available online for listening.
Various forms of sound therapy are used to address a wide range of mental and physical health issues. While studies suggest that they may be effective, more research is needed to fully understand their benefits. Still, it may be worth trying sound therapy as a supplementary treatment to determine if it’s helpful for you.