Sound therapy is an ancient practice that dates back to the Aboriginal people of Australia. They are the first culture known to use sound as a healing tool. The didgeridoo was used to heal injuries, including broken bones, as well as illnesses.
As other cultures discovered the power of sound and music, it became more widespread as a healing method. The Babylonian and Egyptian cultures used sound for a number of things, including healing. Drums, rattles, and even vocal sounds have long been used to induce relaxation and encourage healing of the mind, body, and spirit.
Today sound therapy is a powerful healing tool used in a number of medical and healing environments.
Sound therapy for stress
A 2003 study found that music increases relaxation which reduces stress by employing nitrous oxide as a neurotransmitter. It concluded that music “has numerous profound effects.” The researchers found that the “complex nitric oxide signaling system is the primary and fundamental method by which music acts as a relaxation device.”
Eighty-eight married, employed Muslim women in Malaysia were the subjects of a 2011 study that examined the effects of sound on their state of mind. The sound therapy was found to reduce their stress while increasing their calmness while they worked. One group used nature sounds and the other group used a recitation of the Quran. Both types of sound produced the same calming effect.
Sound therapy for tinnitus
An updated review published in 2012 examined six trials on sound therapy for tinnitus. All total, the trials included 553 participants. It concluded that there was some improvement but due to the absence of quality research there was not enough evidence to say for certain that it works. However, it was noted that sound therapy could be incorporated in a multi-strategy approach to treating tinnitus.
Another study published in 2012 found that combining sound therapy with transcutaneous vagus nerve stimulation reduces not only tinnitus severity, but also the distress associated with the condition. The trial was short term, with 10 patients who had diagnosed tinnitus. All subjects experienced mood improvement and a decrease in their tinnitus symptoms.
Sound therapy for pain
A study published in 2006 by the Journal of Advanced Nursing found that people who listen to music experience a reduced pain response. It also found it causes a reduction in anxiety. The study involved 60 subjects that included both Caucasians and African Americans who were between 21 and 65 years of age. All subjects had chronic, non-malignant pain. They were divided into three groups: patterning music, standard music, and a control group. While there was little difference between the music groups, both showed marked improvement over the control group.
A 2004 study found that vibroacoustic sound therapy aids in the management of pain by invoking relaxation and reducing stress. This in turn decreases pain. The conclusion was that sound therapy is a viable tool for effective pain management.
Sound therapy improves workplace performance
Music can help workers focus and be more productive says Teresa Lesiuk of the University of Miami. As an assistant professor in the music therapy program there, Lesiuk understands the power of sound. Her research shows how music affects performance in the workplace by examining several studies on the subject. She found that music can relieve anxiety, ease depression, and even eliminate the tedium of repetitious tasks. This in turn increases productivity.
The majority of researchers agree that while sound therapy does seem to show great promise as a viable treatment for a number of conditions, more studies need to be conducted to solidify the claims. Although the results are inconclusive from a formal research standpoint, you can’t deny the many people who have found relief with sound for thousands of years.