- Dr. Eric Carlsen
Here's The Science Behind Why Sound Healing Is Taking Over Wellness In 2022
Take a look around. What you perceive to be empty space around you is actually teeming with sound waves and vibrations. If only we could see it: the smooth, rhythmic wavelengths of music. The rough, jagged lines of random and unorganized noise. But sound is invisible, meaning we can only experience how it feels (think nails on a chalkboard or "your song" playing at the grocery store). From that vantage point, we already know that sound is powerful. But in 2022, the impact that sound has on well-being will make itself heard through what is known as psychoacoustics.
Psychoacoustics: The science of sound.
From a scientific perspective, sound is explained by two components: physical and psychological. The physics of sound describes the pressure changes that occur with the vibration of an object, which is then perceived by the outer and middle ear physiology. The psychology of sound is how we interpret each sound in the brain, which doesn't only provide information about our environment but elicits emotions and feelings. This component is better known as psychoacoustics, and as this field rapidly expands, innovations in the auditory wellness space are sounding back.
According to Ilene S. Ruhoy, M.D., Ph.D., founder of the Center for Healing Neurology: Psychoacoustics is an exciting field that we are still learning a lot about. There is a connection between sound and health and sound and healing." The mechanics of hearing are somewhat straightforward, "but what we hear and how we hear it and how we perceive sound is more complex," she said. "Our bodies take in our surroundings. Our health is interconnected with our senses—one of which is hearing. The ability of air to conduct sound as well as a bone to conduct sound shows the various means of entrance of our acoustic surroundings. I think the conduction of sound into the brain and throughout our body holds some great promise." So, what happens to our well-being when we start playing with our senses?
The new era of sound healing.
The power of psychoacoustics has even rippled into Silicon Valley, where capital firms known for their success with wellness startups are backing companies bringing artificial intelligence onto the psychoacoustic scene in creative and transformative ways. Sound will no longer be something that consumers just passively listen to but something their own metrics can influence. In November of this year, startup Endel showed the world what A.I.-powered sound can do when they teamed up with artist Grimes to create the "A.I. Lullaby," an adaptive sleep soundscape. And wait, define soundscape? A soundscape is simply the combination of multiple sounds to create a specific auditory environment.
Powered by artificial intelligence, the "A.I. Lullaby" factors in location, weather, and natural light exposure to create a personalized soundscape that helps children and adults fall asleep.
Aside from the "A.I. Lullaby," Endel is available as an app that (with permission) can incorporate even more personalized data to create one-of-a-kind soundscapes for sleep, focus, study, recovery, or relaxation. Through an Apple Watch, Endel's soundscapes will factor in weather, movement, heart rate, circadian rhythm, and ultradian rhythm. It is not unrealistic to imagine a near future where these soundscapes become critical in helping us access the well-being benefits of meditation or sharpening the mind for creative work.
Similar to Endel, the app Brain.fm is using technology to create "functional music"—algorithmic music designed to prompt a specific mental state like focus or sleep while reducing distraction. Their music, also created by artificial intelligence, works to coordinate neurons in the direction of a desired mood state. This innovation is a response to the newest theories in neuroscience, which explain the connections between music and well-being, like dynamic attending theory, an understanding of how oscillations in music affect oscillations in our brain. Brain.fm music is proved to create brain oscillations that enable attention for better work productivity and increase the delta waves associated with deeper sleep...meaning that more targeted wellness might be just a play button away.
Credit: Mind Body Green and Devon Barrow