How sound can heal you

Rhea Claire Madarang

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Here's how sound can be good for your health

SOUND HEALING. Music we listen to affects our health as much as our diet and exercise do

MANILA, Philippines – Staying healthy is not only about eating right and exercising. Exposing yourself to sounds beneficial for you can also boost your health.

In a presentation at an international conference on culture and religion held at University of Santo Tomas, Dr. Rosalind Hackett, professor of anthropology and religious studies at the University of Tennessee, discussed the power of sound healing. She cited different sound healing practitioners and researchers who studied sound healing benefits.

The power of sound

MUSIC AND MEDICINE. Dr. Rosalind Hackett explains the health and therapeutic benefits of sound

Psychoacoustics researcher Joshua Leeds did extensive research on the impact of sound on humans in different situations. Psychoacoustics is the study of the effect of music and sound on the nervous system. One of its premises is that sound feeds the nervous system the same way food nourishes the physical body.

In his book “The Power of Sound,” Leeds discussed studies showing sound impact.

Different studies show that relaxing music, characterized by regular rhythm, predictable dynamics, among others, creates a relaxation response in subjects — heart rate is decreased, breathing and muscles are relaxed and feel-good chemicals, particularly endorphins, are released.

THE POWER OF SOUND. Dr. Hackett talks about sound researcher Joshua Leeds, who studied the impact of sound in different health contexts

Critically-ill intensive care patients had reduced pain and blood pressure. Those suffering from arthritis also felt less pain. Music therapy also helped regulate the blood pressure of patients with coronary heart disease. These are just some of the studies of sound healing on patients.

Music is not just for relaxation. Listening to your favorite lively music while exercising can actually make your workout more effective. One study found that exercising in time to the music’s beat helps people exert more effort in their workouts and reduces their post-workout fatigue. Tempo for exercise music should ideally be 120 to 150 beats per minute.

If relaxing music has a positive effect, on the other hand, rock and heavy metal can do harm in some contexts. Leeds cited a study whose findings show that listening to rock and heavy metal music makes teenagers more prone to depression and suicidal thoughts.

From ancient healing to modern medicine

PAST TO PRESENT. A slide from Dr. Hackett’s presentation shows the development and the different kinds of sound healing

While sound healing is just being integrated in modern medicine, it has already been practiced long ago by healers in indigenous communities. Hackett showed in her presentation that sound healing has already been present in sacred music in indigenous cultures and in early church music like Gregorian chants. 

In the Philippines, babaylans (popularized term for healer, priest/priestess and leader in indigenous communities) usually use chants and songs when healing, and also when leading other rituals. In her research, musician and documenter of oral Philippine traditions Grace Nono found that babaylans continue to practice this.

READ: In the presence of a Babaylan

While sound healing is becoming accepted in modern medicine, practitioners of alternative medicine and healing are incorporating this form of healing in their work as well.

For example, musician and energy healer Yeyette San Luis sometimes sings in her healing sessions, but not in the usual sense. Spirit singing, as she calls it, is singing from soul and intuition, with no set lyrics or tone. 

MUSICIAN AND HEALER. Yeyette San Luis uses her music not just for performance but also for healing

Pick your track

Hackett said that with sound healing’s increasing popularity, there is already much variety people can choose from depending on their preferences and contexts. There is sound healing for yoga, Tibetan singing bowls producing a healing sound, soothing music tracks for meditation or relaxation and more.

“If you Google ‘sound healing,’ you will get at least a million results,” she pointed out. 

So whether you just want to listen to slow, soothing music or experiment with the different kinds of sound healing offered by therapists and practitioners, with a little effort you can find the healing sound that resonates with you.

Here is a video sample of relaxing music:



 Man in nature enjoying good music photo from Shutterstock

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Rhea Claire Madarang

Claire Madarang is a traveler, writer, biodiversity communications practitioner, and facilitator of nature play activities. Follow her adventures, travel tips, and reflections on her blog Traveling Light and on her Instagram