Listening to brown noise may have cognitive benefits for people with ADHD, but experts caution that the evidence is still limited.

(Photos by Chelsea Conrad/The Washington Post)

Opinion

Imagine a deep, steady hum, like the low hum of a jet engine. The sound is called brown noise and has become popular as a tool to help people with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder focus or relax.

The hashtag #brownnoise has over 86 million views on TikTok. Top videos show people with ADHD recording their reactions to brown noise, and many say their minds have never been quieter.

Darcy Michaels, 42, of Vancouver, BC, with ADHD; He uses his voice When he should focus and call it a “game changer”.

“My brain feels like it’s being hugged,” he said.

Evidence that brown noise can help people with attention deficit disorder is anecdotal, and there is no definitive research. A few studies indicate that a similar noise, called white noise, improves cognitive function and attention in people with ADHD, and experts believe that brown noise has the same effect.

Brown noise is considered broadband noise, meaning it consists of frequencies above the range that the human ear can hear. Brown noise only uses low frequencies, creating a low-pitched bass that sounds more interesting to some. It has been compared to the sound of thunder, a jet plane, or a strong wind.

In contrast, white noise, which is broadband sound, includes all frequencies that the human ear can hear – television static or a whirring fan. Some people find white noise calming, while others find the high-pitched sounds in white noise annoying.

Another popular broadband noise is pink noise, which falls somewhere between white and brown noise. It includes a mix of frequencies, but the lower frequencies are more prominent. Examples of pink noise in nature are falling rain or rustling leaves.

Why brown noise can help focus

Some clinicians believe that brown noise, white noise, or pink noise is an auditory masking mechanism—that is, it drowns out other distracting noises.

Goran Söderlund, a researcher at the University of Applied Sciences in western Norway, believes the effect goes beyond simple hearing loss. Over the past decade, he has conducted 15 preliminary studies on the effects of white noise on people with and without ADHD. He hasn’t studied brown noise, but believes it will have a similar effect.

His research showed that people with ADHD performed better Memory And Language Functions when listening to white noise. The studies were small, but he believes white and brown noise hold promise as a tool to help people with ADHD.

The reason may be related to sustained and general levels of the brain chemical dopamine. High levels of dopamine help control attention, but also a continuous release of dopamine It appears Being low in people with ADHD. Söderlund says that in people with ADHD, listening to broadband noise causes the brain to mimic the effects of dopamine.

Signs of neurons in the brain for some people with ADHD It explodes like fireworks. In all directions, Söderlund said. The result can be a “noisy” head with chaotic thoughts competing for attention. White or brown noise seems to help the brain retain neurons, focus attention and quiet noisy thoughts.

It is not clear whether these types of sounds can be useful for people without ADHD. With a little research, Söderlund found that people without ADHD can still use quiet white noise. in Another studyChildren with reading problems improved their reading and memory skills by listening to white noise.

“This could be useful to more people than we think,” he said.

Soderlund says more research is needed to show whether it’s brown, white or pink noise. It can also help people with other learning disabilities.

“What happens when you use voice for three months?” he said. “Does it build new pathways in the brain that make neural communication easier? My hope is that if you actually use noise, maybe you can reduce medication.”

Regis University professor Dan Berlau believes Evidence of white noise It has enough strength to justify its use as a supplemental tool. He cautioned that little research has been done on whether the effect on people is different for different drugs and dosage levels.

“It’s not invasive. It’s very simple. It is accessible to people of different socioeconomic levels,” he said. “It’s something I would encourage most people to try if they feel like they’re struggling and can see the benefits.

Danielle Plummer, 24, of Henryville, Pa., uses brown noise when she wants to focus.

“I was very motivated because I knew I had something to rely on,” she said. If I have a hard job or if I have a hard job, I have something to complete.

Taylor Griffin, 27, of Winnipeg, Canada, said brown noise helped her focus on a business course and now listens to it while doing chores, driving or cooking.

“If I listen to brown noise, I can focus for 30 minutes, I can do something else for 30 minutes, and I can focus again,” she said. “I can choose when I want to focus.”

What is the best way to find and use brown tones?

You can find playlists featuring brown, white or pink noise on YouTube and Spotify. Retail and online stores sell sound machines that play some or all broadband sounds. You can also find voice machine phone apps.

Dave Anderson, a clinical psychologist at the Child Mind Institute, worries that social media may undermine the effectiveness of voice interventions. It encourages people to work with professionals to develop holistic approaches to managing ADHD.

“For anyone who is struggling, for anyone who has the diagnosis, I hope people see these markers online as a first step, but not the mainstay of treatment,” he said.

For those who want to try brown, white, or pink noise, Anderson recommends buying a noise machine instead of using the phone app, because he thinks using the phone might draw more attention.

Other experts recommend using headphones that block out distractions. But to prevent hearing damage, Anderson cautioned against playing these sounds at high volumes.

Sabrina Herring-Antwin, a licensed occupational therapist in Louisiana, offers a prescription for ADHD. After taking medication and finding out about it on social media, he started listening to brown voices.

“I hope it’s not just a dying trend, it’s something,” she said. I hope there will be more studies.

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