Sound healing therapy uses aspects of music to improve your physical and emotional health and well-being. The person being treated partakes in the experience with a trained sound healing practitioner. Sound healing may involve:

  • listening to music
  • singing along to music
  • moving to the beat of the music
  • meditating
  • playing an instrument

There are different types of sound therapy, including vibrational sound therapy, which uses special sounds that produce vibrations thought to improve brain waves.

Healing with sound is believed to date back to ancient Greece, when music was used in an attempt to cure mental disorders. Throughout history, music has been used to boost morale in military troops, help people work faster and more productively, and even ward off evil spirits by chanting. More recently, research has linked music to a number of health benefits, from boosting immune function and lowering stress levels to improving the health of premature babies.

There are a few different types of sound therapy, each with different benefits, though not all have been proven.

Vibroacoustic therapy

Vibration is believed to affect your body’s functions, such as blood pressure and breathing. Vibroacoustic therapy uses audible sound vibrations to improve health and reduce stress. This type of sound therapy involves using speakers imbedded in recliners, mattresses, and special mats to transmit music and sound vibrations directly to the body. There’s some evidence to support its benefits, specifically its ability to promote relaxation and reduce pain and symptoms in people with cancer and those recovering from surgery.

Guided meditation

Guided mediation is a form of sound healing in which you meditate to voiced instruction, either in a session or class, or using a video or app. Meditation can involve chanting or repeating mantras or prayers. Research has found that meditation offers a number of health benefits, including:

Neurologic music therapy

Music therapy can reduce stress and promote relaxation. It’s been shown to be more effective than prescription drugs in reducing anxiety levels before surgery. A study published in 2017 found that a 30-minute music therapy session combined with traditional care after spinal surgery reduced pain. Music therapy is administered by a credentialed provider who assesses the individual’s needs. Treatment involves creating, listening, singing, or moving to music. It’s used for physical rehab, pain management, and brain injuries.

Bonny method

Named after Helen L. Bonny, PhD, the Bonny method of guided imagery and music uses classical music and imagery to help explore personal growth, consciousness, and transformation. A 2017 study showed promising evidence that a series of sessions could improve psychological and physiological health in adults with medical and mental health needs.

Nordoff-Robbins

This sound healing method is delivered by skilled musicians who complete the Nordoff-Robbins two-year master’s program. They use music familiar to those being treated, create new music together, or work toward a performance. This approach is used to treat children with developmental delays and their parents, mental health, learning difficulties and autism, dementia, and other conditions.

Singing bowl therapy

Singing bowl therapy dates back to the 12th century and has been used for meditation and rituals in Tibetan culture. Metal bowls produce a deep, penetrating sound that’s used to relax and repair the mind. A 2016 study found that singing bowl meditation reduced stress, anger, depression, and fatigue. All of these things are known to impact physical health and raise the risk for disease, suggesting that singing bowl therapy may be good for your physical, as well as emotional, well-being.

Tuning fork therapy

Tuning fork therapy uses calibrated metal tuning forks to apply specific vibrations to different parts of the body. This can help release tension and energy and promote emotional balance. It supposedly works similarly to acupuncture, using sound frequencies for point stimulation instead of needles. There is some research suggesting that tuning fork therapy may help relieve muscle and bone pain.

Brainwave entrainment

Also known as binaural beats, this method stimulates the brain into a specific state using pulsing sound to encourage your brain waves to align to the frequency of the beat. It’s supposed to help induce enhanced focus, entranced state, relaxation, or sleep. Though more research is needed, there’s some evidence that audible brainwave entrainment reduces anxiety, pain, symptoms of premenstrual syndrome, and improves behavioral problems in children.

Sound healing is used to treat symptoms of a number of conditions, including:

Some of the supposed benefits of sound healing include:

  • lowers stress
  • decreases mood swings
  • lowers blood pressure
  • lowers cholesterol levels
  • teaches pain management
  • lowers risk for coronary artery disease and stroke
  • improves sleep

Sound healing uses different aspects of sound to improve your emotional and physical well-being. How it works depends on the method of sound healing therapy being used. Most sound healing sessions are experienced one-on-one with a specially trained practitioner.

A session may involve sitting or lying down while listening to music or sounds from a speaker or instruments, or having vibrations applied using a special tool, such as a tuning fork. You may be encouraged to participate by singing, moving, even using a musical instrument, or remain still and quiet to let the sounds take effect, depending on the method.

Along with voice, the following are some of the different instruments used in sound healing:

  • singing bowls
  • tuning forks
  • pan flute
  • harp
  • drums

Some methods use a variety of instruments in one session, which can include a guitar, piano, or other instrument.

Though evidence may be limited on some methods, sound healing has been found to be effective for stress reduction and relaxation and has been shown to offer many health benefits. There is little risk to listening to music. Find the sounds that work for you.