What is White Noise

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Everything You Need To Know About White Noise

So you are thinking about investing in a white noise machine. You may have heard about the wonders of such a machine by word of mouth, reading an article or even seeing one on a TV show or in a movie. No matter where you have the idea from, the white noise device has numerous benefits for you, which we will go into in a little while, but you should first know exactly what they do.

More to the point, you should know exactly what white noise is.

The Scientific Explanation

There are two possible definitions of white noise, the first of which is the scientific one. White noise is technically a variety of sounds, all of which are on different frequencies and combined together to create what can be a harsh sound.

Just as there is a spectrum of light, there is a spectrum of sound and combing numerous frequencies essentially scrambles the sound into white noise. The combination can include up to 20,000 tones playing simultaneously and is often used to disguise other sounds because it has a natural masking effect.

The Layman’s Explanation

You may not have understood the scientific explanation unless you have a good grasp of physics but then you do not need to fully understand it to appreciate the value of white noise. It is basically defined as a steady, unobtrusive sound that can be used to drown out noises or soothe the mind.

This might sound a little bit vague but the whole concept of white noise is in general. For example, the Cambridge Dictionary online defines it as “a mixture of sounds or electrical signals which consists of all the sounds or signals in a large range” and the Oxford Dictionary online just states that it is “noise containing many frequencies with equal intensities”. There is no specific explanation because there is no set formula for white noise. Trying to pin it down exactly is like using the exact composition of Yellow Submarine by The Beatles to define pop music without considering any other song. Depending on the number of sounds and their frequencies, the sound of white noise may subtly differ from one machine to the next.

So how does it work? Well, to drown out the sounds of neighbours, street noise and other sounds that disturb you it uses a strange method that is similar to distraction. For example, if you are talking to a person then your ear tunes into their speech, just as if you are trying to sleep and you can hear people next door then your ear tunes into that particular noise and keeps you awake. If two, three, four or even ten people are talking at once then you will be able to listen to just one person by tuning your ear into what he or she is saying. However, if there are thousands of people talking all at once then you will not be able to hear what one person is saying and it becomes a form of white noise. A white noise machine uses thousands of sounds so that your brain cannot isolate any of them. This is why it helps to soothe you.


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