Music as Medicine

The Power of Sound to Renew and Restore
a woman receiving sound therapy

For thousands of years, musical instruments have rejuvenated the human soul. Australian aboriginal tribes have entranced each other with the didgeridoo’s otherworldly tones. Himalayan singing bowls were played with deep reverence to spiritually clear a space and those in it.

What is Sound Healing?

Modern-day practitioners of the healing arts know the power of sound as well. They guide listeners through experiences called “sound baths” to facilitate healing through frequencies and vibrations.

Sound vibrations “have a profound effect on the parasympathetic nervous system, which is the aspect of the nervous system needed for proper digestion and recovery from illness and stress,” according to Michelle Hebert, DC, MPH, a sound healing practitioner based on Vancouver Island, Canada.

Sound healing is a full-body listening experience that helps someone enter a meditative state. “Even someone with a hearing impairment can benefit when attending a sound healing in person, since the vibration of sound is picked up by the nerve receptors on the surface of the skin. This creates positive changes through the rest of the body, as sound vibration is ‘felt’ by the body. This alone can create changes,” says Dr. Hebert.

Science shows those changes may include stress and pain reduction.

Does Sound Healing Work?

“A review of 400 published scientific articles on music as medicine found strong evidence that music has mental and physical health benefits in improving mood and reducing stress,” wrote board-certified psychiatrist and therapist Marlynn Wei, MD, JD, in Psychology Today. One study found that meditation aided by Tibetan bowls “helped people reduce tension, anger, fatigue, anxiety, and depression,” noted Dr. Wei.

Sound healing is beneficial for any physical or mental disease process that’s caused or impacted by stress or mental burnout, says Dr. Hebert. “Digestive disorders, insomnia and other sleep issues, low immune function, anxiety, and depression are examples of conditions that can benefit from sound healing,” she says. “Sound healing can also be thought of as a key practice (like yoga or meditation) to keep the body, mind, and energy system healthy and balanced to help prevent disease.”

Experience a Session

Sound healing sessions can be experienced in a group setting, or they can be a solo experience with just you and the practitioner present. Because of sound’s ability to travel through space and time, remote sessions are also offered online or over the phone. Sound healing can be combined with guided meditation or guided visualization to focus the mind to enhance healing intentions and allow for a deeper release of stress.

Crystal bowls, metallic bowls (known as Tibetan bowls), bells, gongs, flutes, drums and other percussion instruments, tuning forks, chimes, and even the human voice may be heard during online and in-person sessions. To bring in nature elements, an ocean drum, thunder box, or an eagle whistle may be played. Upon hearing these sounds, a participant creates a healing journey in the mind.

As in most areas of life, if one thing doesn’t resonate with you, it’s likely something else will. Sound healing is no different. Dr. Hebert says, “You won’t know until you try it. Pay attention to how you feel after the sound healing. Are you more peaceful and balanced? Do you feel lighter with less worry on your mind? The mind has incredible power to facilitate healing. When sound is combined with focused intentions, the healing effect is even more profound.”

Click to See Our Sources

“The effect of low-frequency sound stimulation on patients with fibromyalgia: A clinical study” by L. Naghdi et al., Pain Research & Management, 1–2/15

“The healing power of sound as meditation” by Marlynn Wei,, 7/5/19

“Inside the life-changing benefits of sound therapy” by Jake Smith and Hannah Chenoweth,, 3/3/20

“The neurochemistry of music” by M.L. Chanda and D.J. Levitin, Trends in Cognitive Science

Personal communication: Michelle Hebert,


Lisa Fabian

Contributing Editor

Lisa Fabian is an award-winning freelance writer with more than 25 years of experience in the publishing industry. She's enjoyed covering topics as diverse as arts and crafts, boating, food, and health and wellness.