For some ADHDers, brown noise is a useful and simple way to help manage symptoms. Learn more about brown noise, including what it is, what benefits it may provide, and whether the use of brown noise for ADHD is backed up by scientific research.
What Is Brown Noise?
Brown noise is a soft, steady sound that features a variety of frequencies and has a relatively low pitch. You can listen to an example of brown noise here.
Brown noise is one of several noise "colors" which are defined by the bandwidth of frequencies they feature. White noise includes all frequencies, and it has a higher pitch that's often compared to TV static. Blue and violet noise have higher frequencies and may sound like steam leaking from a pipe or a hissing snake. There's also pink noise, which features lower frequencies and is sometimes compared to the sound of rain falling.
Brown noise, on the other hand, is limited to even lower frequencies, so it has a rumbly sound that some say is like that of thunder, waves crashing, or the background "roar" you hear when you're on a plane. The title for this noise actually comes from a Scottish botanist named Robert Brown, who coined the term "Brownian motion" to describe the way pollen grains would move under a microscope. The sound signals in brown noise mimic that movement by changing randomly to produce a static-like sound.
Benefits of Brown Noise
The sound of brown noise can drown out background noises, which means that it can be used as an auditory masking technique. In addition, some people theorize that having a soft sound like brown noise playing can help to reduce distracting thoughts. When it comes to ADHD, these are thought to be the primary benefits. The idea is that having brown noise playing could help to minimize distractions and improve concentration at work, at school, or in other settings.
While white and pink noise can also offer auditory masking benefits, some find that the lower pitch of brown noise has a soothing effect as well. It could potentially help someone to relax or fall asleep more easily.
The Research Behind Brown Noise
Recently, brown noise has become a trending topic on social media. In fact, the hashtag #brownnoise has over 99 million views on TikTok, and many of the posts specifically mention that the noise may be helpful for people with ADHD. But is there any research to back up those claims?
As it turns out, there is some evidence that immersive sounds may help with focus. Some studies even focus specifically on the effects of this type of sound on people with ADHD. For example, a 2018 study found that children with ADHD demonstrated improved performance in certain tasks like reading and writing speed and speech recognition while listening to white noise. And in a 2007 study, white noise had a positive impact on cognitive performance for participants with ADHD. This is sometimes tied to stochastic resonance, a phenomenon in which cognitive performance is boosted by moderate noise in the environment.
As for sleep and relaxation, there is some research to support the claims about brown noise. A small study published in 2012 found that sleep quality improved when people listened to pink noise.
While there are some potential benefits that have been found in this type of research, scientists aren't willing to make firm conclusions about the benefits of brown noise. That's because it can be difficult to isolate each different noise "color," and the advantages these noises may provide are difficult to measure and highly reliant on individual preferences and environmental conditions. Plus, only a limited number of studies have been conducted thus far, and most have featured small sample sizes.
However, as long as it's played at a safe volume, there generally aren't any drawbacks to using a sound like brown noise for someone who finds it to be useful. Even if the placebo effect is in play, people with ADHD can feel free to use brown noise to their advantage.
How to Listen to Brown Noise
Want to try out brown noise to see if it's helpful for your ADHD symptoms? There are a number of different options for listening to this sound:
- Look it up on YouTube, which features a number of videos with brown noise.
- Listen to brown noise on Spotify, where you'll find brown noise recordings and playlists.
- Download a brown noise app to your phone, such as Noise Machine or SimplyNoise.
- Purchase a sound machine. This can be a great alternative to using a phone or computer if you find those devices to be distracting.
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