Binaural Beats Reduce Patient Anxiety During Cataract Surgery

Researchers at Chiang Mai University in Thailand, led by Dr. Pornpattana Vichitvejpaisal, M.D., have found that patients listening to binaural beats during surgery experienced lower heart rates and decreased anxiety throughout the procedure. Cataract surgery is one of the most commonly required surgical procedures in the USA, and it is often performed with only local anesthesia, meaning the patient is awake while the surgery is being conducted. That last fact makes it quite clear why anxiety can be an issue for many of the patients who undergo this procedure.

The findings were presented this month at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Ophthalmology. I had the chance to discuss this study with the lead researcher, Dr. Vichitvejpaisal, who generously offered his time to answer a few questions and provide additional details about the use of binaural beats in this experiment.

Here’s what Dr. Vichitvejpaisal had to say about the protocol and session configuration used for this study:

“We created binaural beats with a frequency of 20 Hz (EEG: beta wave, for normal activity or anxiety) in the first 5 minutes.

The binaural beat frequency was set to decline gradually to the therapeutic frequency of 10 Hz (EEG: alpha wave, for relaxation) within the following 5 minutes and be sustained for the remaining 50 minutes to ensure enough operative time.

Musical arrangements with relaxing components of melodies, tones and rhythms with a 60-minute duration were embedded with the binaural beats. Natural sounds such as waterfalls, birds, ocean, river and forest sounds were also inserted.”

The study included 141 people, who were split up into groups of 47 each. One group listened to the binaural beats combined with music and nature sounds, the second group listened only to the music with the natural noises, and the third group didn’t listen to anything at all.

The result of the experiment was that the binaural beats group experienced significant reductions in heart rate, systolic blood pressure and anxiety, compared to the control group that did not listen to anything. The patient’s anxiety was measured by the STAI (State Trait Anxiety Inventory), which is a standard and widely used test in the field.

To the team here at Transparent, one of the most exciting aspects of this research is the use of a control group listening to only music, without the binaural beats. Other significant studies have used this control method as well, and it’s a great test to further validate the brainwave entrainment effect as being separate from the neurological results of simply listening to relaxing music.

Those in the group receiving binaural beat stimulation showed the largest reduction in heart rate and anxiety levels, compared to both the control group and the group who listened to music without binaural beats.

Dr. Vichitvejpaisal does have goals to complete even more research in this area, he explained, “we plan to conduct this research on more operative surgery that causes anxiety, or long time operative surgery, to evaluate more effects of the binaural beat.”

That’s good news for the entire field, and we’re looking forward to the results of any future research ventures from this team.

Medical Xpress reported this anecdote about the experience of one patient during the study:

“Dr. Vichitvejpaisal referenced one of his study participants who reported that during her first cataract surgery, she was afraid from the moment she entered the surgical suite. Though she’d been told it wouldn’t take long, the surgery seemed to drag on endlessly. Receiving sound therapy during her second surgery dramatically changed her experience from start to finish. She said that she felt very little anxiety, and that the surgery was over before she knew it.”

If you’d like to try a binaural beat/brainwave entrainment session, Neuro-Programmer 3 is a great place to start.

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