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    Binaural beats: Improved concentration through auditory illusion.

    Special sounds aim to help optimise cognitive performance. But how does this actually work?

Taking an active stance against distraction.

Imagine the scene: you are sat at your computer, staring at a completely empty document, the cursor flashing at you waiting for you to type something. But the right words just won’t come. And as if that wasn’t enough, new “offers” on your smartphone and the internet are continually diverting your attention. What if you could just put on some headphones and get straight on with the job? This is precisely what binaural beats are supposed to do: have a positive influence on your performance.


Woman with headphones listens to music at car.
Woman with headphones listens to music on car.

Improved concentration through auditory illusion.

“Binaural” actually just means “relating to both ears”. Binaural beats are a sequence of sounds with specific acoustic frequencies which aim to promote concentration and optimise cognitive performance. They are perceived when both ears are fed sound at different frequencies simultaneously through headphones. Though German physicist Heinrich Wilhelm Dove discovered auditory illusion (the concept behind binaural sound) back in 1839, today there are still only a few people who understand what this phenomenon is really about. Binaural beats are even being increasingly described as drugs from headphones; it’s even been said that exposure to them has put some people into veritable states of intoxication.


  • Woman with headphones listens to music at car.
    1

Not just for performance enhancement.

They can also be used for relaxation, to improve sleep or to assist with meditation. Incidentally, there is no recommended dose; in theory, you can listen to binaural beats every day. You may experience headaches or dizziness the first time. Give your body time to respond to the unfamiliar stimuli.


The effect may be felt immediately or not until after a few weeks. Listening to the sounds does not cause any side effects. Only people who suffer from epilepsy or who have had a stroke are discouraged from listening to binaural beats. Pregnant women should also preferably refrain.


Woman with headphones listens to music in car.

What happens in the brain.

The human brain is made up of billions of cells, mostly neurons. These neurons communicate with each other through electrical stimuli and convey information in this way. This electrical activity in the brain can be measured using so-called brainwave patterns. Binaural beats can be used to influence the brainwave state, the frequency range in which the brain resonates.


How binaural beats work.

Your wave state varies depending on your activity; so for example other frequencies dominate when you are sleeping than when you are concentrating hard. With the aid of binaural beats, it is possible to stimulate the brain into entering a specific state, ranging from “relaxed” to “concentrated”. This “miracle” is brought about by auditory illusion which involves exposing both ears simultaneously to sound with different frequencies.The brain processes the two different frequencies and from these forms its own, third frequency, which is the difference between the two – the binaural beat. Studies show that the brain “switches to” and starts resonating at this new frequency.


Woman with headphones listens to music in car.
Woman with headphones listens to music at car.

Changing the frequency with binaural beats.

When we are awake and active, our brains are in the beta state and this is the state we spend most of our time in. If we want to increase concentration and cognition, we seek to change from the beta to the alpha state because it is in this state that information can be processed more effectively, complex situations analysed more quickly and tasks managed more easily. In addition – and this is surely where the comparison with drugs originates from – studies have found that the switch from beta to alpha brainwave states also promotes the distribution of certain neurotransmitters and hormones. These include endorphins, noradrenaline and dopamine. In humans, these feel-good substances generate a feeling of joy and happiness.


Now a treat for the ears.

Are you sitting in front of a blank page again? Then try this: put your headphones on and experience some binaural beats. A wide selection of “compositions” of varying duration can be found on YouTube, for example. Start with a five-minute piece aimed at enhancing concentration and see if it gets you pounding away at the keyboard.


Woman with headphones listens to music on car.
Woman with headphones listens to music on car.

Premium-class sound in the car.

Though binaural sounds are best listened to through headphones, the updated Burmester® High-End 3D Surround Sound also allows the beats to resonate right through your new S-Class. To improve sound quality, the sound system has been expanded with the addition of a loudspeaker in the overhead control panel and two loudspeakers at the sides. Instead of the beats you can, of course, opt for your favourite songs. We recommend “It’s a long way there” by the Little River Band. Joyful feelings guaranteed – even without binaural beats.