Landscape in a brown tint

What Happens When You Listen To Brown Noise: Does It Actually Help You Focus?

Some people use brown noise to calm an overactive mind, to focus, and to help with sleep, and some even say it helps with their attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). There is now an almost cult-like following of brown noise. So what is brown noise? And does it actually work?

Brown noise is the name given to a range of noises lower down in the frequency spectrum. Where white noise is a jumble of all audible frequencies (like the sharp hiss of old TV static), brown noise is a softer range of sound in the lower frequency spectrum.

What is brown noise vs white noise?

To me, brown noise sounds like a steady flow of river rapids, and white noise is a staticky (as in TV static) sound. Brown noise currently has a massive following on TikTok with millions of views each day and has a growing presence in ADHD communities.

The following post from TikTok user @verboten.intern now has over 3.3 million views (and still growing).


Thank you for sharing

♬ Brown noise – Pure Brown Noise – Power of Noise

Why is it called brown noise?

The naming conventions used for sound are…complicated. The Brown in brown noise doesn’t actually refer to the color brown but to Brownian Motion, named after the botanist Robert Brown who identified the way pollen moves in water in 1827.

What are the other noise colors in the spectrum?

As well as brown noise, there are other ‘colors’ in the noise spectrum that each has a different quality. Here’s a list of all six that are usually called the ‘technical’ definitions, and what they sound like:

White headphones

White noise

The name white noise gets its analogy from white light which has all the visible colors of the spectrum mixed together equality.

It sounds like a hiss and is commonly referred to as ‘static’ named after the sound made by analog TVs when they lost reception.

10 seconds of white noise

Pink headphones

Pink noise

Where white noise is the whole range of sound, pink noise starts cutting out the high pitch noise and is less jarring.

Pink noise is commonly used to block out louder noises such as traffic and dogs barking outside. It’s soundly standing next to turbulent river rapids (imagine being by Niagra Falls).

10 seconds of pink noise

Brown headphones - brown noise

Brown noise

And now we get to the topic of our conversation. Brown noise cuts off more of that high-pitch range of sounds and the prominence of bass starts to come through.

People use the analogy of a stream, or heavy rain to describe brown noise, and it’s also said to sound grainier.

10 seconds of brown noise

Blue headphones

Blue noise

You’d think this would be deeper, but it’s not, it still has some of the deeper sounds, but picks up most of the high-end spectrum.

Blue noise sounds like water from a high-pressure sprinkler.

10 seconds of blue noise

Violet headphone

Violet noise

Violet noise is very similar to blue noise, but with less low-end sound

Violet noise sounds like air being let out of a tire.

10 seconds of violet noise

Grey headphone

Grey noise

Violet noise is very similar to blue noise, but with less low-end sound

Violet noise sounds like air being let out of a tire.

10 seconds of grey noise

What are the benefits of brown noise?

There’s an almost cult-like following of brown noise with advocates claiming that the gritty static sound is helping them in multiple areas of their life.

Is there any scientific evidence that sound emersion works?

There has been growing research over the last 20 years into the benefits of sound colors to see what benefits they have.

In a study of workers, they found that using the pink color spectrum helped with focus when compared with a quiet environment. And while there has been no official research into brown noise, people are claiming it helps to calm the mind, and stop their internal monologue.

Can brown noise help with ADHD?

Most attention in media like @NatalyaBubb’s TikTok post has been around brown noise, but they might be listening to the wrong color.

In a study of children with ADHD, they found that by using noise therapy the children were able to keep their focus and attention for longer, but the noise color was white noise.

The challenge for people with ADHD is their prefrontal cortex has difficulty filtering out external stimuli, this could be overhearing a conversation on a nearby table, or a car passing outside. People with ADHD may not have enough dopamine, the ‘reward’ hormone so their brains are always looking for the reward.

Using sound therapy you’re pretty much telling the brain, “hey I know you want a reward, but listen to this while I get on with this task”.

While most research was been into pink and white noise, many of the ADHD community are saying that brown noise also helps. But there’s a problem with that claim.

Load up YouTube, and look for any noise color you like. What you’ll realize is that no two sound the same. So while the title of the video could be ‘8 hours of brown noise’, you could be listening to pink or blue or something in between.

Man in a suit with large white headphones smiling

Does listening to color noises work?

The studies above with pink and white noise used loud volumes in the experiments to show results. So why are there so many people swearing that listening at medium levels works and that they are able to stop thoughts?

One argument is that it’s a placebo effect. People that hear about the benefits of noise colors and really believe in it are likely to find that it works because they believe it will work.

Another explanation is sound blanketing. The brain notices changes to any new stimulus such as a dog barking, or someone starting to talk nearby. So listening to a constant noise can block out these distractions allowing you to focus better.

Can brown noise help with meditation?

The main principle of meditation is bringing your focus to the present moment, and color noise can help in two ways.

  1. Color noise is giving us something to focus on. In the same way, we focus on the chime of a singing bowl we can use the color noise as a point of focus.
  2. Blocking out distractions. If you’re easily distracted or surrounded by disruptive noises, using color noise can give you the space to meditate.

Is brown noise harmful?

There have not been any reported dangers with using any color sound. As with any sound, you shouldn’t listen to any noise over 70 decibels for prolonged periods as it can cause damage to your hearing.

I have two friends that have tinnitus and I asked them if any of the color noises helped and both said that it just irritated them.

The takeaway

There has been a lot of popularity in social media around brown noise, and while studies show that other color noises played at louder volumes actually work, people are saying that they are feeling better and more focused when they listen. So don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.

Have you listened to brown noise, or is one of the other colors your favorite? Let me know in the comments.

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