Is there evidence that noise therapy can help with A.D.H.D.?
Dr. Soderlund and other researchers have studied the benefits of white noise for children with reading disabilities and A.D.H.D. In one experiment, children with reading disabilities completed a 30-minute test that involved reading and remembering words; those who listened to white noise through headphones generally performed better at the test.
The noise enables them to better concentrate, Dr. Soderlund said, and to complete academic tasks.
That may be because, in people with A.D.H.D., the prefrontal cortex of the brain might struggle to filter out the stimuli a person encounters in any given environment, like chatter from a nearby conversation or an image flashing across someone else’s screen, said Dr. Bains.
Those with A.D.H.D. may not have enough dopamine in their brains, a chemical that impacts attention and motivation, Dr. Diaz said. Without enough dopamine, the brain stays “hungry” while you’re trying to concentrate, Dr. Diaz explained. “While one part of the brain is trying to focus, the other part of your brain is looking for food.” When you listen to a sound like brown, pink or white noise, “you’re almost assigning the circuits a task,” she said. “‘You listen to this, while I focus on this task.’”
What about noise therapy and sleep?
Scientists have reached conflicting conclusions on whether any particular type of noise can help you sleep better. A 2020 review of 38 studies found limited evidence that white noise can improve sleep, despite the prevalence of white noise machines marketed for sounder nights. Some companies promote white noise machines to help babies sleep, claiming the sound mimics the environment in the womb.
There have been few studies on using brown noise as a sleep aid, though one of the claims floating around TikTok is that it can help you nod off.
A decade ago, a group of researchers conducted a small study, asking 40 participants to listen to a steady stream of pink noise while they slept throughout the night. By looking at the participants’ brain waves, the researchers saw that those who listened to pink noise had deeper sleep, with fewer complex brain waves and better responses to sleep disruptions compared to when they slept without the noise.
Dr. Berlau pointed out a simple theory for why people say noise begets sleep — be it pink, white or any shade. Sounds may block out your downstairs neighbor, the traffic and your partner’s snoring.
And, experts said, if any form of noise therapy works for you, there’s no harm in using it.
There isn’t likely to be any danger in listening to brown noise for, say, eight hours at a time, Dr. Berlau said, unless someone plays the sound at unsafe volumes (listening to noise above 70 decibels over a long period of time can damage your hearing).
Meanwhile, there are those who cherish the noise.
“If you find that happy place — a calm, quiet, consistent brain,” Dr. Diaz said, “it feels so blissful.”