Binaural beat therapy uses headphones to deliver two different auditory signals to each ear, prompting the brain to blend the two sounds into a single tone. Although most people can use binaural beats with no harmful consequences, certain groups of people who have neurological or cardiac issues should be cautious in using them. The hypnotic affect of this brain hemisphere synchronization has been known to trigger seizures, affect heart rhythms and hamper the user's ability to operate machinery.
People with a history of epilepsy are generally discouraged from using binaural beat therapy unless under medical supervision because there is a risk that the auditory stimulation will cause seizures. Since epileptic seizures are the result of abnormal neurological impulses, introducing the 'frequency following techniques' used by binaural beats can trigger the seizure reflex.
Binaural beat therapy should be discontinued if the user experiences uncontrollable twitching, full-body jolts or sudden jerks. In a few cases, children who have no history of seizures have experienced them while using binaural beat therapy. It is therefore recommended that children only be allowed to use binaural beats under adult supervision.
Cardiac patients who have experienced irregular heartbeat issues, especially those who have a pacemaker installed, should consult their medical practitioner before using binaural beat therapy. Studies at the Center for Neuroacoustic Research have shown that as the brainwave patterns are altered by binaural beats, the rhythm of the heartbeat is simultaneously affected. Though very beneficial in meditation, this effect can potentially be damaging to delicate heart conditions.
Binaural beat therapy creates a very relaxed, hypnotic state of mind. Therefore, it should not be used when driving a vehicle or operating complex machinery that requires strict attention. It is relatively safe, however, to listen to binaural beats when performing simple tasks like computer work or household chores.
Some binaural beat products are promoted as digital drugs which mimic the effects illegal substances such as marijuana, LSD or crack cocaine. This marketing tactic has caused concern among some parents, and has sparked debate about the possibility that using these binaural beat products promoted as digital drugs may lead children to experiment with dangerous street drugs.
Though there is much controversy surrounding the issue of digital drugs, there has been no effort to take them off the market or limit their sale to minors. To date, there is no evidence that binaural therapy labeled as a digital drug has created any of the harmful side affects associated with street drugs. (See Reference #2)
Lela Lake founded Cats' Meow Productions in 2000 and has since produced hundreds of Internet videos, articles and Web presentations promoting community activism and environmentally conscious entrepreneurs. Lake has a Bachelor of Arts in social science and her work for groups such as the Sierra Club and Alley Cat Allies has been published in regional newspapers and national magazines.