Sorry. That was a sneaky question.

We don’t mean ‘sound’ like the slang term for ‘you’re good at what you do’ (we can guess that already!), we mean sound as a form of relaxation treatment, or as a complement to another treatment. Do you use sound therapy with your clients? If you don’t, maybe it’s worth considering. The benefits of sound therapies are a fascinating and wide-raising subject that’s far too big to cover properly in a single blog, but here are a few bullet points to hopefully start you thinking…

Let’s begin with the basics

From the moment we’re born (maybe even before) we respond to sound. Some music will make us happy, other music will make us sad, some music will help us concentrate, other music might help us learn faster. More than a few mothers will remember the ‘Baby Mozart’ albums that were quite the rage a few years ago, a trend that grew so popular it was even given a name – the ‘Mozart Effect’. Experts still seem to be divided about whether or not it really worked but it’s supporters claim that, whether you’re a child or an adult, the right music can increase our ability to become more intelligent. It all stemmed from the work of a French physician called Alfred Tomatis, whose innovative musical therapies allegedly helped children with dyslexia, autism and attention-deficiency disorders.

But music is only the surface level of sound, and you don’t need to play music for sound to have an effect. It’s the beat of the sound and its sonic frequency that our bodies and minds are responding to, and it is those frequencies that make sound therapy so beneficial. 

What is sound therapy?

Sound therapy uses sound to relax and rebalance the body. Think of it a little bit like sonic acupressure (although that’s a very loose comparison.)

Sound therapists believe we all consist of different energy frequencies and that the deliberate use of certain sounds and tones can disrupt anything negative going on in our body and assist us back to health. They could use anything from drums, gongs, ‘singing bowls’, tuning forks or even their own voice to accomplish that aim, wrapping their clients up in sound as if it’s a cocoon.

Does it work?

Research that’s taken place in the UK and across the world has produced some interesting results. A study by BAST – the British Academy of Sound Therapy – found that 95% of clients suffering from stress-related disorders experienced an increased state of calm following sound treatment, and that the positive effect of sound therapy on a client’s autonomous nervous system can be substantially beneficial.

Sound therapy is considered a complementary medicine that can treat a wide host of dysfunctions in the body including high blood pressure, chronic pain, mild depression, ME, IBS and fertility issues.

Tibetan sound healing

Sound therapy isn’t a new concept. On the contrary, it is thousands of years old. Himalayan singing bowls have been used for centuries to induce calm and aid meditation, and to remove negative energy from a living space. For a better-known example, think of the repeated use of sound during Buddhist chanting (like the famous Aum chant, which has been scientifically proven to slow down the nervous system and resonate through the chanter at the same vibrational frequency found in the rest of the natural world, physically and symbolically connecting the chanter to the rest of the universe.) A singing bowl will often be heard announcing the start and end of these prayers.

Where Tibetan sound therapy is concerned, it usually involves lying the client down, giving them an eye mask and cocooning them with pillows before surrounding them with the high and low vibrations of lots and lots of gongs. Most people who have enjoyed this treatment say how relaxing it feels, as if the different reverberations are tapping into the energy centres throughout their body. The bowls can also be physically applied to the client too. The therapist will fill the bowl with warm water and then chime it while the bowl is placed directly on different points on the client’s body. This process has been described as being ‘washed with sound’.

Still sceptical?

If this all sounds a little bit too New Age for you, how about trying out binaural beats?

Binaural beats therapy is a kind of soundwave therapy during which the right and left ears listen to two subtly different frequency tones and the brain hears the difference between the tones but still interprets it as one single tone. Its effect has been compared to meditation and it is used by people all over the world to reduce stress and anxiety, focus concentration, increase their confidence and improve their mood.

You don’t have to go to a therapist to find out if it works either. There are a huge range of beats commercially available to buy. All you have to do is plug in your headphones and listen, or even let the beats play while you are sleeping. Various different research studies have shown that exposure to binaural beats improves the production of cortisol and melatonin and decreases anxiety. It has even been used to relax anxious patients before an operation.

Be (ahem) patient, though. Although those pre-op patients were calmed down by listening to beats for an up to an hour, enjoying the full effect of binaural beats takes a little bit longer – between 30-45 days listening for between 15-30 minutes a day. And you’ll have to listen to the beats through stereo headphones or they won’t work.

Why not give it a go?

If nothing else, we hope this blog will encourage you to take a bigger look at the potential use of sound in your spa or salon, beyond simply playing calming music to create a friendly and inviting atmosphere – although that’s an important, if subtle, form of sound therapy too. We’ll be looking at more alternative treatments in future blogs, so don’t forget to keep checking back in!

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