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The background noise trifecta: Explaining the white, pink, and brown noise

Many people use background noise to help them better concentrate. You usually know it’s time for a deep focus sesh when the (noise canceling) earphones come on and the music goes up. The most common type of background noise people use to concentrate, or even help them relax and fall asleep, is white noise. 

But now there is a new color on the scene that has made some waves on TikTok: brown noise. 

@fleet.wood.mak WHERE DID THIS COME FROM #MakeNightsEpic #xyzbca #CatchChobaniOatmilk #fypシ #AmazonVirtualTryOn #bpdtiktok ♬ Brown noise – Pure Brown Noise – Power of Noise

Did you know that there is in fact a whole spectrum of noise that you can dabble in to find the perfect type of focus sound for you? Different sonic hues are determined by how energy is distributed over various frequencies. While there is a colorful range of sonic hues, the top 4 most common ones are: white, brown, pink, and black noise (you don’t have to worry about the others for now). 

White noise

Probably the most commonly known type of noise. People mostly use the term “white noise” as a blanket term for just any background/ambient noise, but it is much more specific than that. 

Similar to how white light contains all wavelengths visible to the human eye, white noise encapsulates all frequencies audible to our ears at equal intensities. The combination of low, mid, and high frequencies with an equal amount of energy distributed among them, results in a steady humming sound. 

While the energy of frequencies is equal, white noise does not have a pattern. Due to the nature of white noise, it is great for masking any other sounds that might be distracting you or any other sudden sounds that might disrupt your focus. 

Some real-world examples of white noise would be gentle rain showers, a functioning fan or air conditioner, and radio/TV static. 

Because of the all encapsulating nature of white noise, some people find it a bit harsh on the ears and less pleasant over a long period of time. This is why some people may opt to use pink noise instead. 

Pink noise

Like white noise, pink noise encapsulates all frequencies. But unlike white noise, it gets louder at lower frequencies and softer at higher ones. This results in a softer and milder version of white noise which some may find more calming and soothing as compared to white noise, when listening to it for an extended period of time. 

Another part of pink noise that makes it more soothing for some people is the way it is loosely structured. Its structure lies in the middle of completely random and totally uniformed. Allowing it to sound steady or flat. 

Some real-world examples of pink noise would be a steady light to medium rainfall, wind rustling through leaves, and heartbeats. 

Pink noise may come off as deeper than white noise, but it doesn’t go as deep as brown noise. 

Brown noise

Also known as red noise, brown noise only uses low frequency notes. Brown noise may come across as more severe without the high frequency sounds found in pink and white noise. Though despite this, many people have testified to the almighty powers of brown noise. 

@ikayhateaccount_No more “study for 5 minutes rest for 5 hours 💀”♬ Sabak Daddy – Cookie$

Currently there is not enough research exploring the power of brown noise, but it has been found to induce sleep and relaxation. Since it is much deeper than both pink and white noise, brown noise is ideal for those who find high frequency notes uncomfortable. Brown noise has also been growing as the ideal background noise to promote calmness, focus, and better sleep. 

Some real-world examples of brown noise are thunder, strong waterfalls, and strong winds. 

Bonus: black noise

Again, like the color black being the absence of light and color, black noise is total silence. This absence of noise is what people try to achieve when going to bed, but it might not be the best choice. 

When we sleep, our brains still process stimuli around us, like sound. So, while people try to achieve black noise– or complete silence– when sleeping, this makes random sounds at night seem more distinct in the silence. 

Sometimes our pet starts making noise, we hear the cars outside, or our neighbor’s intense karaoke session just started up again after a brief intermission. What keeps us up at this time is not the noise we hear itself, but the change of sound around us. These sounds disturb the black noise we tried to achieve, thus disturbing our sleep. These noises might also make it more difficult for you to go back to sleep, making you feel less rested the next day.  

This is one reason why people opt to use white, pink, and brown noise to mask those random noises while they try to sleep. Since you aren’t sleeping in total silence, those random sounds at night won’t disturb you as much because you have noise already playing in the background, masking those extra sounds. 

On TikTok, users with and without ADHD have proclaimed how efficient brown noise has been for their concentration (although more research needs to be done to understand the complete effects of this). Users have experienced its effectiveness in quieting down their thoughts and allowing them to enter a void of hyper focus and productivity. 

@natalyabubb #brownnoise #brownnoisers #adhdinwomen #adhdcheck #adhdtipsandtricks #adhdhacks #adhdhavks #adhdproblems #adhdsquad ♬ Brown noise – Pure Brown Noise – Power of Noise

White, brown, and pink noise all provide a steady background sound that make other unexpected sounds seem less jarring to us. While research still needs to be done for both pink and brown noise, it seems that the people have spoken. 

The next time you have trouble falling asleep or need an intense concentration boost, why not try experimenting with these different types of sounds. There are many machines, YouTube videos, and even Spotify playlists online to aid you on your sonic journey. Find what works best for you, happy listening!

Other POP! stories that you might like:

The ‘UST Good Luck Tiger’ phenomenon looks fun, but it also shows the extent students go through to cope with studies

Is it rude to ask someone to keep the noise down in coffee shops?

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