Binaural beat technology isn’t new. But it is powerful. This post is designed to answer some questions about how it works, why it works, and how I use it effectively in the treatment of sensory processing issues.
For people who have read about or tried Quickshifts Quickshifts: A Simple, Successful, and Easy to Use Treatment For Processing, Attention and Postural Activation, you may be wondering what all the fuss is about listening on headphones versus speakers, and why the music has that echo-y tone.
The use of binaural headphones or speakers placed close to the child allows the ears to hear the full range of sound with as little interference or absorption from the environment. It is important that the left and right ear are hearing the sounds separately. The echo-y sound? What you are hearing is the BBT; binaural beat technology. The slight alteration in sound frequency between what the brain hears from the left and right speakers forces the brain to synch up at a frequency that matches this level of difference.
BBT isn’t new. BBT has been used and researched since the 70’s. It is out there in many forms; you can even find recorded BBT music on YouTube. There are enough studies done to prove that this technology has real effects on alertness, attention and mood. It makes sense that therapists would like to use it to help kids with self-regulation issues. BBT is helpful for learning and self-regulation, but only if you know what brainwave state you want, and why you want it. And that is where skilled therapists can help.
But which one to use?
I only use Quickshifts in my therapy sessions.
Why do I prefer Quickshifts to deliver BBT?
- Quickshifts entrain an alpha brainwave state. This state is associated with calm focus the ability to move to a more powerful focus or downshift into sleep, and, wait for it, interoception. Yup, the biggest new word in occupational therapy is interoception, and there are some excellent studies done by neuropsych researchers that indicate that alpha brainwave states increase interoception. Yeah! Interoception is the ability to perceive internal states, and this includes basic physiological states such as fatigue, hunger, and the need to eliminate. So many of our clients struggle with knowing what they feel. Quickshifts can help.
- Alpha brainwave states are theorized to act as a gating mechanism for anxiety, which means they help kids block anxiety. Anxiety isn’t a great state for kids with ASD, SPD, or any of us. Anxiety is a component of so many diagnoses, and it isn’t easy to do cognitive behavioral strategies like CBT or DBT with children under 10 or 11. Quickshifts also work well for adults with anxiety as well! Should the PARENTS of Kids With Sensory Issues Use Quickshifts?
- The music used in Quickshifts is very carefully designed to enhance specific functional states, and every occupational therapist is all about functional performance. We don’t want just relaxation; we want engagement in life. The way that Quickshifts uses music allows BBT to address specific behavioral performance abilities. There are albums for attention, for movement, and for regulation. They all use BBT. For each particular album, one functional goal will predominate. I don’t need to induce a meditative state in a child that is working on handwriting. I need calm focus and better movement control.
- The avoidance of pure tones means I don’t have to worry about seizure activity in kids with a seizure disorder. The use of pure tones is a risk for seizures, so if a child has frequent seizures, I can be confident that I am not increasing them if I use Quickshifts.
- The choice of instrumentation on Quickshifts albums is often more grounding than other BBT choices. I want kids to feel grounded, not floating on a cloud. That state makes it harder to pay attention, to speak, move, etc. Being jolted into a high level of engagement without grounding isn’t great either. Remember: OT is all about functioning. This happens at that “just right” point of arousal. I really like the way Quickshifts address anxiety and trauma. Even if a child’s trauma reactions are based on their difficulties managing school with sensory processing or autonomic disorders, not abuse. Not all trauma reactions are from profound abuse. But when trauma IS the issue, Quickshifts have the edge over the Safe And Sound protocol. Dr. Porges dropped the ball on understanding the HPA axis and how sound treatment can overwhelm a system that is biased for fear. The key is the way the brainstem responds to sound novelty. People with a high level of anxiety and fear will have an automatic aversion unless you deal with this problem first!
- There is a progression of instrumentation and rhythm on many Quickshift albums that guides the brain into more environmental awareness and postural activation, but it is done gently. Getting to an alpha state is a goal, but improving functional performance with less risk of overload is most important to me. I have to give kids the ability to leave our session in a great state of mind.
Get the right headphones! I just wrote Doing Therapeutic Listening? Get These Affordable, Comfortable, Kid-Size Bluetooth Headphones From PURO! because the right headphones deliver the best results. Don’t think you can use expensive headphones that cancel outside sounds; they destroy the binaural beats!