This is another one of those cases where someone seems to have found a phenomenon and decides to ask "what can I claim it does?"
Binaural beats are simply an artifact of the way the brain perceives sound.
In sense, it would be the same as someone claiming that you can treat erectile dysfunction by looking at an optical illusion.
Problem solved? If so, send $1 to Monkey Tuesday....
Binaural beats are appropriately being studied for a variety of reasons, mostly due to the potential effects it may have for patients with cochlear implants, and in an attempt to better understand the relationship between neural activity and sensory perception. They have also been used to understand complex neurological phenomena, such as how the brain communicates with itself.
While binaural beats are being studied with regard to sensory perception, there has been no indication that they can significantly alter it (in a manner comparable to DMT or LSD, or even to marijuana) beyond the range in which individual perception is altered (or perceived to be altered) by either meditation or relaxation for an equal amount of time.
A study of EEG data regarding binaural beats showed that there is a change in brain wave patterns while being exposed to them. However, the only conclusion the study reaches is that brain wave patterns are different for those listening to binaural beats than those who are not, and that they can be detected by placing electrodes on the scalp. In fact, a study here may indicate that there is little difference between a brain interpreting binaural beats and a brain interpreting acoustic beats.
And again, tests like these are done to understand how the brain works, not to illustrate any purported effect.
Binaural beats have been tested for efficacy in treating:
- ADHD-shown ineffective
- Anxiety - inconclusive
- A study from Duke with a sample
size of 29 indicates there may be
potential for affecting "mood and
performance" but this study is
preliminary and the claim is vague.
As for the claims that binaural beats "may help people memorize and learn, stop smoking, help dieting, tackle erectile dysfunction and improve athletic performance" binaural beats have not been shown effective, and it is not likely they will ever be proven more effective than simple relaxation for an equal period of time.
I am almost certain that this will be attributed to methodological problems inherent to experiments that compare treatments to relaxation, because they typically yield subjective results which become contentious and difficult to replicate.
This may make "binaural beat therapy" ripe for colonization by woo.