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Woman healing through sound therapy

Sound Therapy: Does it Work?

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Birds chirping outside your window. Bacon sizzling in a pan. A car horn blaring at you less than a second after the light changed. Your boss’s voice when she says it’s time for your annual review. These and so many other sounds can trigger a wide range of thoughts and emotions. But can sound actually be therapeutic? And is there any proof that sound therapy actually works? 

What is Sound Therapy? 

Does sound therapy really work

Sound therapy (which is sometimes referred to as sound healing) encompasses a variety of interventions that use sounds or vibrations to promote improved health.

Examples of sound therapy approaches and techniques include:

  • Vibroacoustic therapy
  • Vibrational therapy
  • Gong baths
  • Tuning fork therapy
  • Tibetan singing bowls
  • Binaural beats
  • Music therapy
  • Chanting
  • Drum therapy

While some sound therapy techniques and technologies are relatively new, healers have been incorporating sounds and vibrations into treatment for centuries. A September 2009 article in the peer-reviewed journal Psychiatry reported the following about the long history of using sounds for healing purposes:

  • Physicians in ancient Greece were known to employ lyres, flutes, and other instruments as healing tools. They also employed vibrations as a means of addressing mental disturbances, digestive problems, and insomnia.
  • In De Anima (or On the Soul), which Aristotle wrote around 350 BC, he discussed how flute music could arouse powerful emotions and have a purifying effect on the soul.
  • Texts from ancient Egypt include accounts of using musical incantations to treat sick people.
  • In the 1700s, a French doctor named Diogel published reports about music’s beneficial impact on an array of physiological functions, including heart rate, pulse, respiration, and blood pressure.

While sound therapy is not a central component of Western medicine or mental health treatment today, this doesn’t mean that modern researchers have ignored its potential. Here are a few examples of more recent studies:

  • A 2004 study in the journal Holistic Nursing Practice reported that vibroacoustic sound therapy can “reduce [pain] symptoms, invoke relaxation, and alleviate stress.”  
  • In 2019, the International Journal of Engineering Research and Technology published a study that used electroencephalograms (EEGs) to evaluate the effect of singing bowls on brain functions. This study determined that the sound frequency emitted by such bowls can prompt the brain to produce delta waves, which are associated with times of deep relaxation, such as sleep or meditation.
  • An October 2020 study in the journal Physiology and Behavior found that exposing rodents to the sound of a gong caused the animals to increase their production of glutamic acid and decrease production of gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA). Underproduction of glutamic acid has been suggested as a contributing factor for disorders such as schizophrenia, while abnormal GABA levels have been linked to anxiety, depression, and schizophrenia.

Also, in a chapter on vibroacoustic therapy in their book The Art & Science of Music Therapy, authors Olav Skille and Tony Wigram reported that various sounds or sound combinations can have “a significant physiological and biochemical effect” on a person’s body. 

“Muscular energy will increase or decrease depending on the rhythm, and breathing will accelerate or change its regularity …” Skille and Wigram wrote. “In addition, a marked variable effect on heart rate, blood pressure and the endocrine function is produced, and changes in metabolism and the biosynthesis of various enzymatic processes may be induced.”

What Does Sound Therapy Treat?

As we described in the previous section, sound therapy has been used to treat a variety of medical, neurological, and mental health conditions.

Various sources have reported that the potential physical health benefits of sound therapy may include:

  • Pain management
  • Headache relief
  • Increased energy
  • Better sleep
  • Reduced blood pressure
  • Improved circulation
  • Easing of muscle tension

From a mental health perspective, sound therapy may be beneficial for people who have been struggling with concerns such as:

What Instruments or Devices Are Used During Sound Therapy?

Sound therapy sessions can involve a variety of instruments and devices. Some, such as the ones listed here, are decidedly low-tech:

  • Voice
  • Gongs
  • Tuning forks
  • Drums
  • Chimes and bells
  • Singing bowls
  • Rain sticks
  • Cymbals

However, sound therapy doesn’t always occur in a technology-free environment. For example, vibroacoustic therapy sessions usually make use of specially designed mats or furniture that have been equipped with devices that can generate certain sounds and/or vibrations.

Finding Sound Therapy Near You

With such a range of options, it can be difficult to determine which type of sound therapy would be best for you. It can also be challenging to find the right sound therapy provider in your area. Asking the following types of questions can help:

  • How will the provider determine if sound therapy is right for you?
  • What other therapies and services does the provider offer, and how will they decide which of these are best for you?
  • How much input will you have in the development of your treatment plan?
  • What are the qualifications of the person or people who will be providing your care?
  • How long will you need to receive treatment, and what factors will go into that decision?
  • How does the provider define success for their patients?
  • What types of discharge planning or aftercare support services does the provider offer?
  • Does the provider accept your insurance?

Contact Montare Behavioral Health About Our Holistic Therapies

Montare Behavioral Health offers a dynamic array of customizable mental health services at several convenient locations in Southern California. We can work closely with you to assess the full scope of your needs, then develop a personalized plan just for you.

Within our network of mental health treatment facilities, your options include residential care, partial hospitalization programs (PHPs), intensive outpatient programs (IOPs), and traditional outpatient care. In all programs at all locations, you can expect to receive focused services and comprehensive support within a safe and welcoming environment.

To learn more or to schedule a free assessment, please visit our Contact page or call us today. We look forward to answering all your questions and helping you determine if one of our mental health treatment centers is the ideal place for you or a loved one.