Binaural beats were discovered in 1839 by a German experimenter, H. W. Dove. The human ability to "hear" binaural beats appears to be the result of evolutionary adaptation. Many evolved species can detect binaural beats because of their brain structure. The frequencies at which binaural beats can be detected change depending upon the size of the species' cranium. In the human, binaural beats can be detected when carrier waves are below approximately 1000 Hz (Oster, 1973). Below 1000 Hz the wave length of the signal is longer than the diameter of the human skull. Thus, signals below 1000 Hz curve around the skull by diffraction. The same effect can be observed with radio wave propagation. Lower-frequency (longer wave length) radio waves (such as AM radio) travel around the earth over and in between mountains and structures. Higher-frequency (shorter wave length) radio waves (such as FM radio, TV, and microwaves) travel in a straight line and can't curve around the earth. Mountains and structures block these high-frequency signals. Because frequencies below 1000 Hz curve around the skull, incoming signals below 1000 Hz are heard by both ears. But due to the distance between the ears, the brain "hears" the inputs from the ears as out of phase with each other. As the sound wave passes around the skull, each ear gets a different portion of the wave. It is this waveform phase difference that allows for accurate location of sounds below 1000 Hz(9). Audio direction finding at higher frequencies is less accurate than it is for frequencies below 1000 Hz. At 8000 Hz the pinna (external ear) becomes effective as an aid to localization. In summary it's the ability of the brain to detect a waveform phase difference is what enables it to perceive binaural beats.
The exact technique that will be right for you is something you have to discover for yourself though. There is no universal way to pinpoint which technique is best for you with 100% accuracy. You may need to try out several until you find the one that really resonates with you. One way is to do a bit of research on a variety of techniques. Usually you will find one or more of them seem to “draw” you to them. Pick one of those techniques as your starting point.
By exposing an individual to repeatedly external stimulus which can be flashing lights and/or recurring sounds, the entrainment process consists in pushing the brain to adjust to match the frequency provided. Unlike other forms of neurotherapy which require the individual to actively respond to stimulus, entrainment creates an immediate neurophysical response which is instinctive and effortless for the person being provided with the light and/or sound combinations. The key outcome of the sensory stimulation is known as the ‘Frequency Following Response’.
A warning: Be sure to listen to these two tracks no more than twice each per day. Any more and your beta-thought centers can have TOO much energy in them, causing you to feel like you are on a stimulant. Some people may only be able to listen to each track once per day without feeling over-stimulated. That's fine, just go with what works for you. Sometimes less is more when it comes to brainwave entrainment. Don't push too hard trying to force-grow your brain cells. :-)
You may recognize the "binaural recording" from ASMR, where the technique is often used. This explains why, if you search for "binaural" on YouTube, you get a mixture of two entirely different kinds of results: binaural beats and binaural ASMR recordings. It gets especially confusing in that there's some questionable and/or unexplored science surrounding each one.
This is an extreme example, naturally, but the idea holds true even in situations that are not as extreme. This ties in very closely with Point #4 above. When you’re wishing to combine meditation and brainwave entrainment, if you’re practicing a meditation technique but not really paying attention to what you’re doing, or perhaps you are performing the technique wrong, whilst allowing your mind to drift off to wherever it takes you, it should come as no surprise that the entrainment track is not helping you achieve a state of meditation. That’s because in fact you aren’t really trying to enter meditation or because you’re specifically engaging in activities that prevent you from getting there.
Escape from a stressful situation by remembering a favorite vacation spot or a place where you feel cozy and at home. “Make sure to take note of every detail of your favorite spot—the more detailed your visualization, the more stress gets kicked to the curb,” Dr. Serani says. “For me, it’s a beautiful spot on the beach in my native Long Island. But it’s not just the white velvet sand of the beach or the teal blue ocean water; it’s the sounds of the surf, the tang of the salt water, the feel of the sun, the waves in the distance, and the imagined walk I take along the water.” You can combine this with a three-word mantra like “blue-ocean-water,” Serani suggests. Miller calls the visualization of a memory that evokes a positive association an “anchor.” She remembers watching beautiful sunsets in Costa Rica. “Now that I am back in the hustle and bustle of life, I will often pause and take mini-retreats, bringing up the anchored experience of inner calm that I felt watching the sunsets,” she says.
That said, I use binaural beats and isochronic tones to help me get over some hurdles, or as a pre-game to meditation. It’s far easier to go deep once my mind is operating on a certain frequency, or at least feels like it. It’s also way easier to get to that point than fighting my thoughts at times. Think of binaural beats and isochronic tones as heavy ammunition that you don’t always need, but is great to have in your arsenal when you really need it.
Physical activity can pump up your feel-good endorphins and other natural neural chemicals that enhance your sense of well-being. Exercise can also refocus your mind on your body's movements, which can improve your mood and help the day's irritations fade away. Consider walking, jogging, gardening, housecleaning, biking, swimming, weightlifting or anything else that gets you active.
Binaural beats can easily be heard at the low frequencies (< 30 Hz) that are characteristic of the EEG spectrum (Oster, 1973). This perceptual phenomenon of binaural beating and the objective measurement of the frequency-following response (Hink, Kodera, Yamada, Kaga, & Suzuki, 1980) suggest conditions which facilitate entrainment of brain waves and altered states of consciousness. There have been numerous anecdotal reports and a growing number of research efforts reporting changes in consciousness associated with binaural-beats. "The subjective effect of listening to binaural beats may be relaxing or stimulating, depending on the frequency of the binaural-beat stimulation" (Owens & Atwater, 1995). Binaural beats in the delta (1 to 4 Hz) and theta (4 to 8 Hz) ranges have been associated with reports of relaxed, meditative, and creative states (Hiew, 1995), and used as an aid to falling asleep. Binaural beats in the alpha frequencies (8 to 12 Hz) have increased alpha brain waves (Foster, 1990) and binaural beats in the beta frequencies (typically 16 to 24 Hz) have been associated with reports of increased concentration or alertness (Monroe, 1985) and improved memory (Kennerly, 1994).
... One of the possible explanation for insignificant results could be length of exposure to AVS. Our participants were exposed to it for 11 minutes, while some authors (Cruceanu & Rotarescu, 2013) suggest that at least 20 minutes is needed for the positive effects to take place. Furthermore, part of our reserach was also visualization of gymnastic skills, performed after AVS. ...
But the question is: Does it have a special effect on the brain? A lot of people think so. The basic claim being made for binaural beats is "resonant entrainment". Entrainment, in physics, is when two systems which oscillate at different frequencies independently are brought together, they synchronize with one another, at whatever the combined system's resonant frequency is. Examples of entrainment occur in animals in nature; for example the chirping of crickets or the croaking of frogs. Synchronization of menstrual cycles in women is another example. Even people coming together and dancing with one another is a type of entrainment. The basic claim for binaural beats is that the perceived low-frequency beat will entrain your brain wave pattern, thus forcing your brain into some desired state.
In 1956, the famous neuroscientist W. Gray Walter published the results of studying thousands of test subjects using photic stimulation, showing their change in mental and emotional states. He also learned that photic stimulation not only altered brainwaves, but that these changes were occurring in areas of the brain outside of vision. In Walter’s words:
^ Trost W. and Vuilleumier P., Rhythmic entrainment as a mechanism for emotion induction by music: a neurophysiological perspective. In The Emotional Power of Music: Multidisciplinary Perspectives on Musical Arousal, Expression, and Social Control, Cochrane T., Fantini B., and Scherer K. R., (Eds.), Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press; 2013, pp213–225.