We know that background noise consists mostly of low-frequency sounds. We know that if noise is too loud, it can damage our hearing. We use narrow-band noise (NBN) to mask the better ear when we are doing an audiogram and to assess individuals in a sound field. We use noise to mask tinnitus, and we use speech noise to simulate difficult listening situations for our patients. Audiologists know white noise, NBN, speech noise/babble, and some may know and use pink noise. We may have heard of brown noise.
But did you know there are blue, violet, green, grey, and black noises too?
The noise colors refer to the frequency and amplitude of that noise. Noise colors are ambient noises differentiated by their frequency and the amplitude encompassed by the sound waves. For example, white noise and pink noise contain all the frequencies the human ear can hear, but with pink noise, there is more power in the lower frequencies than the higher ones. Brown noise is lower frequency than both white and pink noise.
Do you know which color of noise is best for you? It may be personal preference. However, certain noises have been found to be more beneficial for certain conditions than other noises. For example, studies have shown the benefits of white noise for persons with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) (Pickens et al, 2019; Jones, 2023). Pink noise may improve sleep quality in older adults, and brown noise may combat anxiety and enhance relaxation. Whichever noise you prefer, always be careful of the volume!
More research is needed to determine which, if any, noise is helpful for persons with certain conditions and how different types of noise affect the brain. For now, choose your noise and enjoy!
Pickens TA, Khan SP, Berlau DJ. (2019) White noise as a possible therapeutic option for children with ADHD. Compl Ther Med 42:151–155. doi: 10.1016/j.ctim.2018.11.012.
Jones H. (2023) Brown noise vs. white noise vs. pink noise: is one better than the other? Very Well Health (accessed June 7, 2023).
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