For those of us born in the 1980s or earlier, the sound of static or white noise is a familiar one. Whether we left the TV on too late or tuned into a radio station without a broadcast, we heard it. Nowadays, when we hear about white noise, it’s in relation to how it can be used to help people sleep better or reduce anxiety. And there are some other uses being found for it too, like alleviating the discomfort associated with tinnitus. Read on for details on the different kinds of white noise and how they can be put to good use.
White, Pink, and Brown Noise: What’s the difference?
If you’ve looked into white noise, then you may have learned that there are a few other sounds that fall under the same family of “static sound”, but they are all a little different from each other. There is white, pink, and brown noise.
White noise: The most popular of the three, white noise, sounds like a radio tuned to an unused frequency. It contains all frequencies across the range of audible sounds in equal parts.
Pink noise: Very similar to white noise, pink noise has reduced higher frequencies, so that the sounds are a little gentler and calmer. Many people consider it to be more soothing. Some studies have shown that sleeping with pink noise can help with memory retention.
Brown noise: Considered rougher than both white and pink noise, brown noise sounds more like the roar of a river or a strong wind. Brown noise has even fewer higher frequencies and has been associated with relaxation, improved focus, and better sleep.
For some people, using a sound machine that emits either white, pink, or brown noise can not only help with sleep but also reduce the discomfort felt due to tinnitus.
Pink Noise VS White Noise
As we have established, though white and pink noise are similar, they are not the same. White noise contains all of the frequencies across the audible sound spectrum, in equal distribution, ranging from 20–20,000 Hertz (Hz). White noise may sometimes be called broadband or wideband since it encompasses multiple bands of sound.
Some common examples of white noise include:
- Television or radio static
- Ventilation systems, whirring fans
Pink noise also contains all the frequencies between 20–20,000 Hertz (Hz), but it also sounds deeper. This is because higher frequencies are reduced while lower frequencies are increased.
Some common examples of pink noise include:
- Rustling leaves
- Steady rainfall
- Ocean waves
Whether white or pink noise helps with sleep or with tinnitus, one way to have access to the sound whenever you need it is with a white noise machine. Like with most items, there are many to choose from out there, so here are some pointers we can provide you with to help you choose the one best for you.
Choosing a White Noise Machine
There are two main types of sound machines, some are fan-based, and others are multi-sound. Both of them have the capacity to create soothing sounds to help with sleep, and also sounds that help mask other noises that could keep you awake in the night, like snoring or tinnitus.
Generally speaking, white noise multi-sound machines are best used for blocking noise as they can cover more frequencies, can be set at louder volumes, and have more customization when it comes to fine-tuning a sound that works best for your needs. Fans, on the other hand, are fairly limited in the frequencies they put out and they can’t be changed nearly as much. Aside from adjusting the sound to your liking, there are a few other features we think are important to consider when choosing the right white noise machine for your needs.
- Pricing: Like most items, there is a wide range out there when it comes to white noise machines. In general, you can find excellent models for around $100, though there are some for a little less.
- Size: Fan-based sound machines tend to be larger and harder to travel with. Multi-sound machines are easier to move around, so even if you’re sleeping away in a hotel you can have the comfort of your white noise machine with you.
- Sleep timer: If you’re using your white noise machine to help with sleep, then having a sleep timer is a must! Though a sleep timer is usually standard in sound machines, make sure to check before investing in one.
- Clean loop: With multi-sound, or electric, sound machines, you want to make sure the sound loop is a smooth one. The point of the machine is to drown out sounds, but if you can hear when the recording ends and starts again, that small interruption alone could wake you up, or make you notice your tinnitus again.
While they are most commonly used for sleep, white noise machines, or maskers, can also be used throughout the day. They can be placed around the house on tables and shelves so that masking is happening at all times throughout the house. These tabletop sound generators usually emit sounds more in tune with nature, like rainfall, wind, or birds.
White Noise in Hearing Aids
While there is no cure for tinnitus, there are ongoing studies looking into the many ways to relieve the discomfort with the condition, and white noise has been shown to help. Clinical trials have also demonstrated that using hearing aids in tinnitus patients can help in two ways. First, it makes the patient less aware of their tinnitus. Second, it helps improve communication by masking the annoying sounds caused by tinnitus. While hearing aids can help alleviate tinnitus symptoms, it’s not a cure.
Tinnitus Masking Devices: Hearing aids with relief sounds are electronic hearing aid devices that create and broadcast broad-band or narrow-band noise at low levels. They are designed to mask the presence of tinnitus so patients can have less discomfort and distraction throughout their day. These broadband sounds are, you guessed it, white noise! This noise can be amplified to cover the tinnitus, while frequencies associated with speech can also be amplified to help with comprehension.
Who knew that static sound from an unused radio frequency could prove so useful? Whether you need a white sound machine to help with sleep, to cover your tinnitus or both, there are plenty of options out there for you. Be sure to experiment with all three white, pink, and brown noises to find the one best suited to your needs. And know that one day, white noise may work better, but brown noise may be more effective on another. Keep trying and don’t give up. Most importantly, if you have tinnitus that lasts longer than two weeks, make an appointment with an audiologist.