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Byron Baes has us thinking about ‘sound healing’. But what is it?

ABC Everyday

 / By Yasmin Jeffery

Hannah Brauer sits with her legs crossed and holds hands above her head while another woman does "sound healing" next to her
Byron Baes’ Hannah (left) invites Ruby (right) to do some “sound healing” at a party in the show’s first episode.(Supplied: Netflix/ABC Everyday: Luke Tribe)


I’m only a few episodes deep into Byron Baes and I already have so many questions. 

For starters, what is a “ceremonial cacao”? And why does everyone hate the Gold Coast so much?

But of all the questions I’m dying to ask Byron Bay’s “tight-knit inspirers”, I’m most curious about the “sound healing” Hannah books for the party at her parents’ bougie house in the first ep.

“I’m having my beautiful sound healing lady play a little,” Hannah announces at the event, trailing off as she gestures into the air.

“It’s about music as it changes the molecular cellular levels.”

A few reality-TV minutes later, Ruby the sound healer arrives.

Then she begins using what look like singing bowls to create “meditative vibrations“.

Some people at the party take it seriously, but there’s also plenty of laughter and shared confused glances. If I were there (a gal can dream) I probably would’ve raised an eyebrow.

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Because … what is sound healing?

Psychologist Mary Hoang tells me sound healing is an ancient practice that uses different instruments including singing bowls and tuning forks to give people “an experience of their mind and body state”.

“Sound healing has been used for quite a long time to help people connect to their emotions, remember past experiences, and it’s an opportunity to just relax and get a sense of wellbeing,” Ms Hoang continues.

“It’s [based on] the idea that the music will have a direct effect on the body and brain and that it will be able to bring about some kind of healing,” adds Professor Katrina McFerran, head of music therapy at the University of Melbourne.

Professor McFerran says this is very different to music therapy, which is a research-based profession that involves music therapists working with people “to achieve their goals using music”.

Some examples of this include using music to help improve pain relief, for help with rehabilitation goals, or to develop insight into personal issues.

This is not to say the contemporary practice of music therapy in Western culture, which sits within a medical model, is “better” than sound healing, or that there’s no point to it.

“There are longstanding cultural traditions of using music within all kinds of rituals which might be described as forms of healing. It’s really important to be respectful of that, and not to disregard what may be thousands of years of beliefs and practices using music,” Professor McFerran adds.

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What the experts do know about the impact sounds can have on us

There’s plenty of research that supports the fact that making and listening to music is beneficial to our social and emotional wellbeing.

“I don’t know if [sound healing] ‘changes the molecular structure of the cells’ [like Hannah claims], but music can help trigger different emotions and memories and help reduce stress by reducing the heart rate [and] decreasing cortisol in the body,” Ms Hoang says.

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And Amanda Krause, a lecturer in psychology at James Cook University, says “there are cognitive, spiritual and physical benefits” to hearing music and sounds, too. 

“But it’s really important to note that peoples’ preferences play a role [in the level of benefit that comes from listening to them],” she adds. 

If you like what you’re listening to and you’ve chosen to listen to it, she says that’s when you’d start to see some of the positive benefits we just touched on.

But if you don’t respond well to a particular song or sound — say the chiming vibe at Hannah’s party grates on you — you won’t.

Professor McFerran says this is why music therapists and music psychology researchers veer away from “generalisations about the reactions and responses people have to music emotionally, let alone at what you might call a level of ‘healing’.”

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Want to experience it for yourself? Here’s what to look for

If you decide to see a sound healer, Ms Hoang recommends considering your expectations and what you want from it beforehand.

“Some sound-healing claims can be quite far-reaching of what the effects might be,” she says.

“When choosing a sound healing experience, find out if the person has experience working with what you’re coming to work through. 

“And if you’re working on more acute mental health issues, you probably want to see someone who’s trained in psychology or a music therapist.”

She also suggests opting for a tailored experience that takes the sounds you find pleasing into account, whether that’s ambient beats, guitar or rock.

This is general information only. For personal advice, you should see a qualified medical practitioner.

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Posted Yesterday at 6:00amFri 18 Mar 2022 at 6:00am, updated Yesterday at 8:10amFri 18 Mar 2022 at 8:10am


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