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White noise is nothing new, we've been blasting it onto our babies’ cots for decades in the desperate hope it might get them to nap. Pushing the vacuum cleaner around, leaving a hairdryer on, the more recent evolution to mass downloading white noise apps. What might be brand new information though, is that there’s an entire rainbow of sonic hues.
Ambient noise is the latest in aural wellbeing. Constant, undecipherable noises with minimal sound variations, played at differing speeds. Frequencies activate and stimulate the brain in different ways, thus altering the mental state.
Who’s listening to all this nothingness? Honestly, pretty much everyone. Dale Price is a Producer, Audio Expert and YouTube Creator and his most popular video of pink noise has racked up 7.9 million listens to date. Research is still in somewhat preliminary findings but there's strong evidence to suggest that we can all use sound frequency for improved concentration and clearer thoughts but also for better sleep.
“Brown noise is a specific type of sound characterised by predominantly low frequency sounds, with minimal high frequency sounds. Examples of this kind of sound naturally would be the sound of ocean waves hitting the shore or the low roaring sound of the inside of an aircraft. However, brown noise is often created artificially when used to aid sleep or concentration,” explains Dr Lindsay Browning is a sleep expert at Trouble Sleeping and author of the self-help sleep book, Navigating Sleeplessness.
Brown noise is great for city folks wanting to block out the nocturnal humdrum of the bins being emptied, next door's yapping cockapoo or the No.72 bus pulling up outside every 7-9 minutes. “External sounds can cause people to wake up from sleep, either briefly disrupting sleep quality or waking them up completely and people may then struggle to go back to sleep again. Brown noise can help by masking these external sounds - making your sleep less likely to be disrupted,” explains Browning. Ambient noise is also well suited to busy heads, quieting the mind and blocking out internal chatter. A sleep study on pink noise tracked brain activity as people slept listening to it. Results showed deeper sleep with fewer complex brain waves and that participants fell back asleep quicker when disturbed.
Brown noise can turn off your brain to anything that interrupts the thought process. Some people are more sensitive to external stimuli than others, which is why it’s gained a large fanbase in the ADHD community as it filters out environmental stimuli therefore improving mental focus. What’s more, ambient noise can help idea formation and aid the completion of a cognitive pathways; independent studies into colour of noise frequency and improved work efficiency deduced it’s wholly conducive to getting s%@* done.
The sound rainbow has been shown to increase productivity for readers and writers in particular. When interviewed about how she masters the concentration to write her award-winning novels, acclaimed author Zadie Smith replied, “I listen to brown noise … day and night.”
What distinguishes one colour noise from another is the pitch and equality of different tones.
White noise: all frequencies of sounds at equal volumes. Often sounds sharp, like hissing radio static.
Brown noise: low frequency bass-like tones are louder so sounds softer, like rushing surf or an aeroplane cruising at altitude.
Pink noise: lower frequency sounds amplified. It is softer, lower and deeper than both brown and white noise, sounding like steady rainfall.
Green noise: right down the middle frequency-wise and akin to rainforest sounds like creeks, rivers and thunder but minus the tropical squawking birds, frogs and animal life.
Violet noise: increased volume of higher frequencies and often used by professionals to treat tinnitus.
Blue noise: at the opposite end of the scale to brown noise, has very little bass and an even higher frequency than white noise. Sounds like high-pressure hissing water.
Grey noise: calibrated so your ears hear all frequencies at the same volume, sounds similar to white noise, but marginally smoother.
3 of the best devices that emit brown, pink and white noise:
Lectrofan Sound+Sleep SE, £175.
BrownNoise Sound Machine, £43.
Magicteam Sound Machines White Noise Machine, £23.99.