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Home arrow Health arrow Mental Health arrow Brown Noise for ADHD: Sound Solution or Just an Echo?

Brown Noise for ADHD: Sound Solution or Just an Echo?

Dr. Donika Vata
Written by Donika Vata, MD
HR_author_photo_Edna
Fact checked by Edna Skopljak, MD
Last update: October 20, 2023
6 min read 472 Views 0 Comments
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Find out if brown noise could minimize distractions or whether it’s simply another trending TikTok fad.

brown noise adhd

If you’ve ever liked the low rumblings of thunder, the gushing of a river current, or the sounds of a jet engine, then you’ve likely enjoyed listening to brown noise. 

In fact, you may have already come across it on social media platforms like TikTok. The hashtag #brownnoise already has millions of views for its ability to promote calmness and boost concentration.

As a low-frequency background sound, brown noise has also recently gained popularity for its potential ability to help manage the symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). 

But does it really help with improving focus? We explore the scientific research behind brown noise and explain how it, much like white noise, could be an effective tool to help people with ADHD.

What Is Brown Noise? 

Like its green, white, and pink noise counterparts, brown is one of the “colors” of noise that can be picked up by the human ear. Every color is differentiated by its sound waves, each with a unique amplitude and frequency. 

Brown noise, or red noise as it is sometimes referred to, is more intense at lower frequencies than others on the spectrum and typically consists of low-pitched, deep, or rumbling sounds. This may seem scary or sinister at first glance, but ambient noises, such as heavy rain on the roof of a house you’re in, can be comforting.

Due to its deep, soothing sound, brown noise may be effective in helping you fall asleep, although there isn’t much scientific research to confirm this yet. 

Examples of brown noise 

The most common types of brown noise can be reminiscent of certain natural sounds from the earth, along with some man-made sounds. This includes:

  • Strong winds
  • Loud seas crashing against shorelines 
  • Waterfalls
  • Running showers
  • Strong river currents
  • Wind blowing through trees
  • Jet and car engines
  • Thunderstorms

What is white noise? 

Like brown noise, white noise is one of the most well-known forms of ambient sound. However, white noise is unique, as it equally combines all frequencies across the sound spectrum. 

You may have heard it referred to as “broadband noise” or compared to the sound of static that comes from a television or untuned radio. This is because white noise is typically high-pitched, intense, and creates an even humming sound. 

Some examples include a whirring fan, air conditioner, radiator, and even steady running water or rain.

White noise is known for its ability to induce relaxation and help improve your quality of sleep, but it also has links with increased focus. Studies show that while the effects of white noise may be distracting for those without attention deficit issues, it has a positive impact on cognitive performance for children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). 

How Does Brown Noise Work? 

Many people with ADHD struggle with ADHD paralysis, a symptom where they can’t maintain focus. For instance, they may find it difficult to complete repetitive tasks that don’t offer instant gratification, like cleaning or organizing. This is because their brains work differently to a non-ADHD brain, particularly due to having lower levels of dopamine.

Dopamine is a hormone and neurotransmitter, or chemical messenger, that has several important roles in the body, from controlling movement, memory, and mood to maintaining motivation and attention. 

Low dopamine levels may, therefore, contribute to ADHD symptoms, including extremely low or high brain arousal and lack of focus. This is because it’s believed that people with ADHD have a higher concentration of dopamine transporters, proteins that lower dopamine levels in the brain.

That’s where brown noise comes in – while medication and therapy are the typical treatments, ambient noise may make up for this lack of dopamine. Like stimulant medication, it provides the dopamine trigger needed to put the brain into a state of arousal. 

When arousal is at an optimal level, you’re less likely to experience extreme emotions on either end of the spectrum, such as fatigue or panic, and instead may feel alert and focused. This suggests that brown noise may improve brain performance and promote better concentration for many people with ADHD. 

Listening to brown noise also helps mask any background sound, such as chatter, that may be causing further distraction. This theory is known as stochastic resonance and implies that brown noise can sharpen the brain so that it is able to filter out any distracting information and instead tune it into the task you’re trying to focus on.

Does Brown Noise Really Help People With ADHD? 

Unfortunately, research into the benefits of brown noise for people with ADHD is currently limited, with most cases being anecdotal. 

While there are some early indications that it may be an effective tool, most studies focus on ambient sounds in general or on white and pink noise for cognitive function, which is much more well-researched. 

For example, one study indicates that these two types of noise can be beneficial for optimizing cognitive performance in those with ADHD. It also points out that people with this condition require more noise to perform well than those without attention difficulties. 

There’s also little evidence to support the theory of stochastic resonance and how brown noise triggers the brain’s filtering mechanism.

A 2021 study found that beta waves around 12.5–30 hertz (Hz) are effective for boosting focus and improving brain performance to help people with ADHD. As ambient sounds within this range are low frequency, this suggests that brown noise may be effective for these purposes.

Despite some promising findings, like most other studies on the subject, this one considers music in general and doesn’t specifically look at brown noise. It also doesn’t cover frequencies below 8Hz, which is also considered to be brown noise.

Can Brown Noise Be Harmful?

When played at an appropriate volume, brown noise itself is not harmful. However, listening to any type of noise too loudly for too long can damage the sensory cells within your ears and may lead to noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL).

If you do enjoy listening to brown noise, try to protect your hearing by:

  • Keeping your device’s volume at no more than 60% of the maximum level
  • Using an app to ensure that your sound level is below 80dB average 
  • Buying noise-canceling headphones to stop you from having to increase the volume of your brown noise
  • Moving away from the source of brown noise, such as loud engines
  • Giving your ears a break from loud sounds to allow time for recovery

Although it isn’t dangerous when listened to safely, it’s important to be aware of the signs of hearing loss after listening to brown noise. For instance, if you have tinnitus, a persistent ringing in the ears, consult a healthcare professional immediately.

Finding brown noise annoying? Not everyone will experience the same benefits, and this indicates that it probably isn’t working for you. Some people with ADHD may find it to be a distraction from their everyday tasks, particularly if their symptoms are more on the side of over-arousal, leading to heightened anxiety and agitation.

A Word From Our MD

Expert image border HR_author_photo_Rosmy
Rosmy Barrios, MD
Medical advisor for Health Reporter

As a neurodevelopmental disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder typically begins in childhood and sometimes continues into adulthood. It’s estimated that 8.8% of children and 2.5% of adults in the US have an ADHD diagnosis.

When it comes to managing ADHD symptoms, what works for others may not work for you, and that’s completely normal. While some people may benefit from consuming caffeine, as it imitates the effects of ADHD medications, others may find that it simply increases their anxiety.

You may need to try out different strategies like brown or white noise before you find the one that benefits your cognitive performance the most.

If you have ADHD and no longer want to mask your symptoms or feel that your troubles with concentration are beginning to impact your everyday life, the best thing to do is speak to your healthcare provider. They can properly assess you and make recommendations for the best course of action going forward.

Conclusion

Although it won’t work for everyone, brown noise may be an effective tool for minimizing distractions, mimicking the effects of dopamine, and maintaining focus, particularly for those with ADHD.

However, with several proven benefits, some may find white noise more helpful for managing the symptoms of ADHD.

From mental health apps like Sensa to habit formation programs such as Greatness and platforms like YouTube, there are multiple ways to support an ADHD-friendly lifestyle and explore ambient noise for improved concentration. Just be sure that you listen safely, at an appropriate volume, to protect your hearing in the long term.

If your inability to concentrate is causing serious disruptions to your quality of life, you should seek professional help from your doctor as soon as possible.

Written by Donika Vata, MD
Dr. Donika Vata is a highly accomplished MD whose extensive experience in the healthcare industry spans over 5 years, making her a distinguished Medical Writer and Researcher for the esteemed Health Reporter. Notably, she also holds the role of a General Practice Doctor and has rendered her exceptional patient care services in various clinics worldwide.
The article was fact checked by Edna Skopljak, MD
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Dr. Donika Vata
Written by Donika Vata, MD
HR_author_photo_Edna
Fact checked by Edna Skopljak, MD
Last update: October 20, 2023
6 min read 472 Views 0 Comments
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