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Child Development

Is White Noise Good For ADHD Symptoms? Benefits And More

January 6, 2023
Table of Contents

    You may notice that your child with ADHD benefits from background noise. While it can seem counterintuitive to those without ADHD, certain types of external noise can be helpful for ADHD symptoms and other challenges.

    White noise refers to a type of noise that contains all of the different sound frequencies audible to the human ear in equal measure. In recent years, it has become increasingly popular for people both with and without an ADHD diagnosis to use white noise. For example, exposure to white noise is said to boost cognitive performance in people with ADHD and can also have a positive impact on sleep for those with and without the disorder. 

    Should you try white noise for your child with ADHD, and why does white noise work? What does the research say about the impacts of white noise?

    In this article, we'll go over whether white noise is good for people with ADHD, the benefits of white noise, and how other types of noise, such as brown noise, affect people with ADHD. Then, we'll talk about how Joon can help children with ADHD.

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    Is White Noise Good For ADHD?

    Various studies indicate potential correlations between white noise exposure and specific effects on the brain. On a repeated basis have researchers concluded that types of external noise like white noise have different effects on the ADHD brain vs. the brains of those without ADHD. Specifically, for people with ADHD, steady background sounds like white noise can play a role in improving concentration and cognitive performance, alongside other positive effects.

    One idea behind why static background noise like white noise can have such a positive effect on people with ADHD, often when compared to a no noise condition, is said to be because white noise blocks out distracting stimuli. Since many people with ADHD lose focus easily, it makes sense that if "static" sounds block out potentially distracting sounds, they'd be more able to maintain attention.

    It is also said that the presence of some background sounds can lead to reduced background neural activity. If there is reduced background neural activity, a person may be able to maintain attention, feel calm, or focus more readily. Since people with ADHD have elevated levels of background noise, this makes sense. For context, stimulant medication is associated with a strong reduction of noise.

    There are several models that explain the effects of white noise and how background sounds can improve symptoms of ADHD or otherwise benefit a person with the condition.

    Optimal stimulation theory

    Optimal stimulation theory is a simple theory that suggests that we all have different optimal levels of stimulation. To reach that optimal level of stimulation, you may need either less or more noise depending on who you are. Using optimal stimulation theory, we can expect that ADHD brains benefit from background sounds in ways that differ from "normal" brains due to the fact that higher levels of noise might be required for an individual to be most appropriately stimulated.

    Stochastic resonance theory

    Stochastic resonance refers to a phenomenon where signals that would otherwise be too weak to be detected are boosted via the addition of white noise. In the context of ADHD, stochastic resonance theory suggests that signaling efficiency is improved in the brain through white noise.

    Note: Joon is a new app for children with ADHD and their parents. Designed for kids aged 6-12, Joon helps children with daily tasks and routines. With over 3.6k reviews, Joon has an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars in the App Store.

    Click here to try Joon for free.

    Research On The Benefits Of White Noise

    What specific positive effects of using white noise have been found in research? A host of studies on ADHD and white noise prove that there are benefits of white noise for people with the disorder. Potential benefits of white noise for people with ADHD include but aren't limited to the following.

    Academic performance

    Multiple studies show that white noise is beneficial for attention and executive functions in people with ADHD. This explains why white noise may be advantageous for academic performance and other tasks that require focus, memory, and other areas where many adults and children with ADHD experience deficits.

    One study on thirty children, thirteen of whom had ADHD, found that the kids with ADHD did better on their assigned tasks when white noise played. The same wasn't true for typically developing children, who did not do as well on their tasks when white noise was played. This study is an excellent example of how the ADHD brain differs from the brain of someone without ADHD. Similarly, another study found that white noise helped reduce off-task behavior in kids with ADHD.

    Not all types of external noise function equally for people with ADHD, however. Research on teenagers with ADHD that compared white noise to babbling noises showed that white noise improved reading and writing fluency and speed, whereas the babbling noises actually hindered the teen's ability to complete their assignments.


    As discussed, many people use white noise to fall asleep. A small study on children with an ADHD diagnosis found that white noise not only decreased off-task behavior in the classroom but also resulted in less disruptive sleep, reducing both bedtime sleep latency and spontaneous wakings at night. Positive effects occurred regardless of if children did or did not take medication for ADHD.

    Unlike with focus, white noise can help people with and without ADHD sleep. The advantages also appear to be consistent across people of various age groups. A study on toddlers found that white noise reduced bedtime resistance and night wakings. Another study on college students found that white noise had a positive impact on both stress and sleep. 

    So, if nothing else, white noise for sleep is certainly worth a shot!

    How Joon Can Help

    Using Joon is another way to help ADHD children thrive. Backed by child psychologists, teachers, and occupational therapists, Joon is a to-do app for kids with ADHD that doubles as a game. Parents sign up first with the Joon Parent App, and kids download the Joon Pet Game.

    Joon is a top parent control app that allows parents to customize a list of real-life tasks for their child. Once a child finishes their tasks and a parent approves them, they get rewards in Joon Pet Game that let them care for a cute virtual pet of their choice. Examples of tasks, also called quests, kids complete with Joon include but aren't limited to doing homework, brushing teeth, or getting dressed.

    90% of kids who use Joon complete all of the tasks their parents assign. Alongside other benefits, Joon promotes independence, motivation, and self-esteem in kids. It's a great way to take the power struggle out of chores, self-care activities, and other routine tasks.

    Click here to download Joon.

    Other Types of Noise For ADHD

    There are many different "colors" of noise, and white noise is not the only type of sound that carries benefits for the ADHD brain. Other types of noise can have a positive impact on ADHD, too. Pink and brown noise specifically seem to have advantages. 

    Pink Noise

    Pink noise might be described as "warmer" than white noise. White noise encompasses all frequencies with equal distribution, but pink noise has more power at lower frequencies and less power at higher frequencies.

    This means that pink noise is deeper than white noise is. Some say that pink noise is better than white noise for sleep. An example of pink noise would be the sound of heartbeats, steady rain, or ocean waves.

    Brown Noise

    Brown noise is also called red noise or Brownian noise. The difference between brown noise and pink noise is that brown noise has even lower frequencies. In other words, brown noise is even deeper than pink noise. Brown noise can promote focus, relaxation, and sleep.

    Examples of brown noise include the sound of waterfalls, rivers, a running shower, thunder, or heavy rainfall.

    What Kind Of Background Noise Is Best?

    Most people don't realize that there are more colors of noise than pink noise, white noise, and brown noise. In addition to pink, white, and brown noise, there's also green noise, grey noise, and other "colors" of noise. However, not all sounds are created equally. The best color of noise may vary somewhat based on the unique person and what they're trying to achieve through using background noise for themselves or their child. Try different background sounds and see the effects certain sounds have on your child.

    If you want to try white noise for your child, you should be able to find videos, recordings, and apps that play white noise for free. Pink and brown noise should be accessible online for free as well. Noisemakers are another option if you prefer them or want to access the sounds without an app, video, or recording.

    Can Sounds Treat ADHD Symptoms?

    Some of the research on types of noise such as white noise can have similar effects to stimulant medication on brain activity. So, can background sounds like white noise treat ADHD symptoms? While certain sounds can be helpful for people with ADHD, children and adults with ADHD should not replace other forms of treatment with noise. Currently, it is recommended that people with ADHD pursue a combination of medication and behavior therapy. Most often, stimulant medication is used as the first line of medication treatment for ADHD. However, there are other non-stimulant medication options as well. Although noise isn't a treatment, parents may use white noise to help kids sleep, study, or self-soothe.


    While it may seem as though background noise would do more harm than good for someone who struggles with focus, research confirms that white noise can have a positive impact on people with ADHD. 

    Optimal stimulation theory suggests that we all have different optimal levels of stimulation. With ADHD, children and adults may require more stimulation to achieve their optimal personal level of stimulation. In ADHD children and adults, white noise can have positive effects on academic performance, focus, and more.

    Other types of noise, like pink noise and brown noise (also called red noise) are proven to have positive effects, too. Not all noise is created equally, and random noise is not as likely to have the same positive benefits. Background sounds like white noise can be therapeutic but do not replace ADHD treatment. 


    Dr. Brittany Ferri, PhD

    Brittany is a registered and licensed occupational therapist who holds a PhD in Integrative Mental Health. She is the owner of a writing and consulting company called Simplicity of Health. She has direct experience in program development, behavioral health, pediatrics, and telehealth. She has published five books, lectured at 20+ OT/OTA programs, and has been quoted as a health expert by NBC News, WebMD, CNN, and other outlets.


    Dr. Brittany Ferri, PhD

    Brittany is a registered and licensed occupational therapist who holds a PhD in Integrative Mental Health. She is the owner of a writing and consulting company called Simplicity of Health. She has direct experience in program development, behavioral health, pediatrics, and telehealth. She has published five books, lectured at 20+ OT/OTA programs, and has been quoted as a health expert by NBC News, WebMD, CNN, and other outlets.