Playing white noise in the classroom can help inattentive children learn. Researchers in Sweden have, over the last 10 years, been studying the effects of white noise on memory, attention and learning. Several published studies have found that white noise can improve cognition and that it diminishes distracting stimuli. Researchers have discovered that neurotransmitter levels change as a response to white noise and this may be the reason why white noise can help inattention.
White noise is defined as a sound made up of random frequencies from the whole spectrum of noise frequencies. The human ear hears it as calming hum. Some people have said that white noise is soothing because it is the sound that we heard in our mother’s womb and in fact, babies appear to sleep more soundly and be soothed by white noise machines.
Over the years white noise has been used successfully to treat migraine headaches, insomnia, tinnitus (ear ringing) and now, in Sweden, ADHD. The brain’s neurotransmiter levels change as a response to noise frequencies and noise level. Studies have found that in dopamine deprived children with ADHD, white noise improves inattention significantly by normalizing dopamine levels. Normal controls without a neurotransmitter problem are hindered in performance by white noise that is too loud.
The most recent study from the University of Stocholm tested secondary school children’s ability to remember words with and without white noise. In the classroom, the white noise machine helped the memory of ADHD kids while it hindered the kids that had no attention problems.
According to Goran Soderlund, the lead researcher in the study, “There was significant improvement in performance for the children rated as inattentive by their teachers, and a significant decline in performance for those rated as attentive as noise levels were increased. This finding could have practical applications offering non-invasive and non-pharmacological help to improve school results in children with attentional problems.”
My mother recently gave my son a white noise sleep MP3 that he took on the school camping and it never made it back home. With his own money he purchased this white noise sampler from Amazon. It has seven 15 minute track and my son reports that it is almost as good as Grandma’s gift.
Grandma gave him a new downloadable sleep sound program which he reports is better than the Amazon product that I found for him (everything from Grandma is much better) but you have to listen to Grandma’s new program on an ipod or computer because the company is very environmentally conscious and does not issue physical CDs. Unfortunately for my son, half the time his various and sundry electronic gadgets are not charged so he has to use the Amazon MP3.
At any rate, he loves the white noise and plays it almost continuously in his room and now I understand why. Many of you have written me to report that white noise has been helpful at your homes as well. Let me know how you use white noise around your house to improve inattention. I am always curious to learn new ‘tricks’ that might help us all.