Here Are The Life-Changing Benefits Of Sound Therapy And Why You Should Try It
There is a reason why people claim that music is healing to the soul. Whether you enjoy listening to Mozart, Madonna or Muse, music has the ability to stir up emotions, feelings and sensations in almost every portion of your body. Much like physical or occupational therapy, some people are learning that sound therapy can be just as healing, if not even more so.
Sound therapy has become much more common these days too, with a number of patients sharing that it have given them better focus and even helped decrease physical pain. And considering that there are a number of therapy centers in New York City, Orlando and Los Angeles that offer sound therapy, it comes as no surprise why there is so much hype surrounding this type of therapy these days.
So What Exactly Is Sound Therapy?
According to expert and founder of Integrative Health Program at Massachusetts General Hospital, Nada Milosavljevic, M.D., sound therapy actually covers a number of different treatments from music therapy to sound baths. It’s another form of sensory therapy, much like a massage which uses touch, and has been practiced for centuries. Music therapy has actually been used in the U.S. for a number of years, but in more recent times, it’s the individual sounds and the frequency use that have actually been growing in sound therapy. Aside from the fact that sound and music are considered simple, noninvasive, and cost-effective forms of therapy, they are essentially quite efficient as well.
Music therapy usually entails listening to music, singing along to music, playing an instrument, moving to the beat of music, or meditating with music. Sound therapy, on the other hand, is more concentrated on frequencies and timbres of music and sound.
There are a number of forms of sound therapy available to patients, depending on each individual’s needs and preferences. Sound therapist and author of the book Sound Bath: Meditate, Heal and Connect Through Listening, Sara Auster, she explains how a sound bath is a form of therapy that uses instruments like bowls to create “a deeply immersive, full-body listening experience.”
Meanwhile, another one is therapist-guided sounds which help lessen and lift stress, as well as enhance one’s memory. Another form of therapy is known as binaural beats, which basically comprises of two different tones being played in both ears of the patient, explained as being ‘a single, almost euphoric tone by the brain.’
What Does A Therapy Session Usually Entail?
Not all sessions of sound therapy look the same either. In fact, they can vary greatly depending on the goal of the patient, as well as the treatments used by the practitioner. Most sessions begin with simple breathing exercises though, in order to help ease and slow the mind while getting patients to transition into focusing on their hearing and listening. For sessions that use sound baths and vibrational therapy, patients are asked to either sit down or lie down in their most comfy positions, sometimes incorporating eye masks or blankets, while bowls are placed around the head and on the body as well.
Meanwhile, other sound therapy sessions can be much more active, at times even including tai chi or yoga. Usually, therapists that engage in one-on-one sessions will observe their patients and adjust the therapy, depending on the kind of verbal and nonverbal feedback they observe in their patients. This will help the therapist decipher which portions of the body require more focus to induce further relaxation. Ms. Auster also explains that each session can last between 20 minutes to two hours, depending on the need.
What Types of Sounds are Used in Therapy?
Auster explains, “Sound baths and sound therapy are not about one particular sound or set of sounds, but about cultivating intention and receptiveness in the listener.” Some common instruments used in sound therapy are crystal bowls, gongs, chimes, tuning forks, Tibetan sound bowls and voice. Other sounds that are used can be those that are pre-recorded, such as ambient music, white noise or guided instructions. In the end, each therapy session may vary in terms of sound, tone, instrument and frequency, depending on the patient’s need.
Dr. Milosavljevic also iterates, “If relaxation is the goal, the most beneficial sounds include ones with depth and slow melodies, as well as songs with lower frequencies and slow transitions.” Nature sounds, like rain, provide consistency which helps relaxes the nervous system and actually eases physical pain. Meanwhile, constant, upbeat and uplifting music helps strengthen focus and increase energy levels.
What Does Sound Therapy Feel Like?
According to senior director of Spa at the Four Seasons Resort Orlando, Derek Hofmann, the actual goal of sound therapy “is ultimately balance and restoration, though we have seen emotional release of all kinds, such as crying, euphoria, laughter, and even anger.”
“This treatment brings emotions to the surface, so oftentimes feelings that you are harboring will arise shortly after a session – or it could take up to a day for you to feel this emotional impact,” he adds.
How Exactly Does it Work?
There is no exact answer as to why sound therapy elicits so many emotions and feelings, or is so soothing, yet those that practice sound therapy have their own theories as to why. Hoffman shares, “The vibrations work by ‘massaging’ every cell in the body,” noting that there’s more to it than just the relaxing and calming effects of sound. He continues, “In contrast to a traditional massage, which manipulates the surface tissue of the body, this treatment works all the way through your skin, muscle, tissue and organs.”
On the other hand, Auster shares that she sees sound therapy as more of a personal journey. She explains, “Much of the healing you experience in a sound bath is of your own making. You are the catalyst for your own change, and it’s you who creates the magic of the experience.”
What Are the Benefits of Sound Therapy?
According to Dr. Milosavljevic, there is a lot of compelling research that proves sound therapy can relieve both psychological and physical pain. One such study from the University of California noted that meditation that used Tibetan sounds bowls showed a decline in anger and stress, more over for those that were newbies to the use of sound therapy. Another such study was conducted on patients that suffered from fibromyalgia, a disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain. The result showed that low-frequency sound stimulation helped by increasing the amount of time patients managed to sit and stand without feeling pain.
Meta-analyses of sound therapy, which is simply explained as the combination of results from various studies, shows that it truly is beneficial to one’s health. Researchers from the University of Bonn in Germany gathered evidence from 30 separate studies that proved the use of binaural beats managed to reduce anxiety in their participants. And scientists from the McGill University also analyzed 400 studies that showed that playing and listening to music actually improves a person’s overall mental and physical health.
Dr. Milosavljevic went on to share, “While sound therapy isn’t a cure-all for most people with severe pain or stress, it’s definitely beneficial.”
Where Can People Try Sound Therapy?
Thankfully sound therapy is slowly gaining traction, which means that it’s easy to find ways to get access to it. For some, finding videos on the internet that show people using Tibetan bowls or binaural beats is one stepping stone to this type of sound therapy. Others experts like Auster have online workshops, as well as uploaded recordings online, which people can access via websites like Soundcloud.
For those that prefer to have an actual one-on-one session with a therapist, they can head over to the national organization American Music Therapy Association. From there, they can find certified sound and music therapists in almost every city, most of which have at least one sound therapy center they can go to. These centers usually have instruments, bowls, tuning forks and other mediums they can experiment with to see which type of sound therapy is best for them. Experts also suggest that patients look into yoga studios due to how popular sound therapy has become in a number of them.
While the effectivity of sound therapy will differ from person to person, it’s important that patients experiment with a few to see which one is best suited to their needs. Auster reiterates that every experience is “very personal to you, your emotional state on that day, and your lifetime of experiences and memories. All you have to do during a sound bath is show and listen.” And of course, patients should work towards the goal of truly getting the most out of each and every sound therapy session they have in order to reach the maximum positive results.