Is White Noise Good for You?

Have you ever heard of white noise? You might have heard of it when someone was describing their learning environment, what they used for sleeping, or what they used for relaxing. Newborn parents claim that it is a lifesaver for putting their baby to sleep. Students claim that it is the reason they can concentrate for hours at a time.  White noise is a random broadband noise that makes a continuous sound at all frequencies. It’s basically a constant “sh” noise that is proven to provide a quiet environment. It can also be described as an anti-noise.

White noise can be found everywhere! It can be the buzzing of people in a coffee shop, it can be the noise of rain drops on your window sill, it can be the breathing of someone sleeping next to you, or it can be the whirring of a fan. White noise is such a prevalent feature of modern society that there are machines that can be purchased for the sole purpose of emitting different frequencies and levels of sound. There are even apps dedicated to different types of white noises.

Personality of the listener is a factor in whether white noise may work for you. If you like loud music in the background, studies show that it is because you crave a distraction from boring work. If you need pin drop silence, studies also show that it is because a distraction takes your mind off a task. White noise can help both types of situations. It provides a signal that masks a novel signal that might arise around you. It is sort of like a shield that takes you into a focused state of mind. However, some people can thrive or be negatively affected by white noise.

You might claim that noise or silence helps you with learning. White noise can actually help you more because it can change the activity of your midbrain. The midbrain is important for motor movement, eye movement, and auditory and visual processing. It can help you improve your memory and is linked to reward pathways. White noise triggers dopamine, a neurotransmitter linked to rewards, and enhances the network between brain regions to improve memory. White noise can be especially beneficial to those with attention deficits. This exposure to a consistent background noise can improve cognitive abilities. White noise can even help with sleep! It creates a routine and blank cover that blocks you from startling noises.

There are many reasons to want to use white noise in your daily routine now but there are also reasons on why not to use it. According to past studies, white noise can even affect brain cells over a long period of time. This is why white noise can cause tinnitus, which is a constant ringing in your ears. This can be prevented by turning down the volume of which you are playing white noise. Anything under 120 decibels should be your go to! Over 120 decibels can damage hair cells inside your ear and in the long term, cause permanent loss of hearing. So remember to be aware of what white noise you are using and how loud you may have the white noise playing.

If you think that white noise is too much of a risk for you, try pink noise or brown noise or blue noise. There are no definitive studies that compare these different noises and it all comes down to personality or preference. White noise encompasses all sound frequencies just as white light encompasses all colors of the rainbow. In particular, pink noise is the alternative that most people use instead of white noise because it is louder and powerful at lower frequencies. Pink noise is often used to help put someone in a deeper and longer sleep state.

So, is white noise actually good for you? There are beneficial reasons to start experimenting with white noise and you should try it! It could be what takes your learning, focus and memory to another level. It can be the added factor for a good night's rest. However, you must also be aware of the possible detriments to your ears.


Radhika-Alicia Patel