Living at a time in which sound is everywhere and silence is scarce, our bodies and minds are reacting to an overload of frequencies every day. From the subtle hum of the refrigerator, to car engines, chirping birds, aeroplanes, our favourite songs and our own voices – sound effects us on a profound level without us even knowing. Emotions, thoughts, the body’s cells and organs, heartbeat and nervous system respond to sound, so how can we tell which sounds are healthy and which can harm? How is sound used as therapy, and can we find every-day sounds to help us heal and rebalance?
With a recent explosion in the popularity of sound healing as a therapeutic tool, and a simultaneous rise in silent retreats, it seems we’re all beginning to understand that we can use both sound and silence to enhance health on a deep level. Gong baths and sound soirees are currently the ‘new thing’ amongst wellness enthusiasts of the West, gathering in candlelit halls and lying draped in soft blankets, surrounded by ambient tones of crystal singing bowls and deep metal gongs. In a sound healing session, wither one-to-one or as a group, you can expect to experience a multitude of instruments such as chimes, shakers, rain sticks, bells, bowls, drums, and even the practitioner’s own voice. Each aspect of the session (‘sound journey’ as they’re sometimes referred to as a nod to shamanic traditions) can have leave a profound and lasting impression upon the listener, and it turns out we haven’t just ‘discovered’ sound healing, but – much like Yoga, Ayurveda, Meditation and Chinese Medicine – have re-connected with it after thousands of years.
Sound has been utilised in various cultures for as long as recorded history. Going back at least 3,000 years, the Vedic tradition of reciting mantras and hymns from sacred texts is thought to be the world’s oldest surviving vocal tradition, whilst Mesopotamian cultures considered music an art, with scriptures mentioning professional musicians and even notated music. Indeed, civilisations were writing music all those years ago, and the oldest known melody known as the ‘Hurrian Hymn’ was discovered in Syria in the 1950s, written upon a clay tablet and preserved for over 3,400 years. 3,400 years later, we’re still writing music, still developing new sounds, heading out to see music being performed, and dancing to rhythms and beats just like we have for thousands of years.
Sound Healing & Stress Reduction
Both dancing to music and listening to it have been shown time and time again to reduce stress levels, release endorphins and bring the nervous system into a more balanced and health-promoting state. This calmer state of being is incredibly helpful for reducing blood pressure, slowing breathing and heart rate, thus having a knock-on effect to the whole body and everything we do with it, like sleeping better, making healthier food choices, feeling more energised, and generally being a little more content.
Certain frequencies have been shown to be most effective at inducing different types of responses, as you may know if you’ve already taken a dive into the world of Binaural Beats. The 528 hertz frequency is known as the ‘miracle frequency’, and is thought to have a genuine healing effect upon DNA, and is the very same frequency used by genetic biochemists. Renowned medical researcher Dr. Leonard G. Horowitz goes as far as to say “528 cycles per second is literally the core creative frequency of nature. It is love”. Sound healers will often use specially made tuning forks to bring the body into a different state, and whilst an un-weighted tuning fork can emit the sound of 528 hz, a weighted tuning fork (one which is placed on the body) literally sends the vibration and essence of the sound through someone, so they can feel and experience the tone whether their hearing is optimal or not.
Whilst the old adage ‘you are what you eat’ is something most of us have heard, we may not consider that we’re not just what we eat, but that we’re made up of each and every experience we digest each day. Other than foods, all other inputs we come across have to be ‘digested’ by the brain, body and subtle channels – every sight we see has to be taken in, processed and either kept in the brain or allowed to leave if it’s unimportant, and in the very same way, sounds have to be ‘digested’ by us too. We can think of sound as not just something swirling around us, but something that travels in, around and through us too. Just as we may think of the nutrition of our food, we can also consider the nutrition of our sound.
If we could measure sound like we do superfoods, the best kind may be the 528hz frequencies and binaural beats, but sometimes the most natural and oldest sources of sound are the most healing. Head outside and away from roads and air traffic, and you’ll begin to tune into the sounds of nature; leaves rustling in the wind, birdsong, rushing water and insects, if you live near a beach maybe it’s the waves that provide a natural sound source for you – and these are the sounds available to us that can be most healing. Published in the journal of Scientific Reports, a test involving participants listening to either the sounds of nature or manmade sounds whilst undergoing a brain activity scan, and asked to perform tasks afterwards. What the results showed were that those listening to the nature had a overall more external-focussed attention (associated with decreased symptoms of worry, rumination, narcissism and selfishness) and also a decrease in stress levels. If however, we were to decipher the toxins of the sound world, this would be 19hz, as it can elicit feelings of fear, dizziness, discomfort, possible panic attacks and blurred vision.
If you’re looking to ‘hack’ your way to health, other helpful frequencies for decreasing stress and anxiety include the barely audible 17hz (the lower end of blue whale sounds), 174hz – apparently a natural anaesthetic, 396hz, and 432hz. To experience the wonder of sound healing, look up your nearest session, and head outside for a wonder in nature to find your own free health-promoting frequencies!
Please note: None of the information in this piece is intended to give medical advice. Always consult your doctor before attempting a new health regime, and do not use this text as medical advice.