What Exactly Is White Noise?

When people mention white noise these days, they might be talking about any continuous noise that blocks out other sounds or just seems soothing. White noise is actually a combination of all the sound frequencies a human ear can hear played at the same amplitude. Picture a piano with a separate key for every single pitch a human can hear. If you could hit those keys repeatedly with exactly the same force — so no single key was louder than another — you would have something similar to white noise. White noise is so named because it’s basically the aural equivalent of the color white. While some studies have suggested that white noise can help you drift off to dreamland and stay there, it really depends on the person. It might surprise you to learn that white noise isn't the only "colored noise." The color of noise is determined by the energy of the sound signal. Pink noise consists of all frequencies we can hear, but the energy isn’t equally distributed across them. It’s more intense at lower frequencies, which creates a deep sound. Brown noise has higher energy at lower frequencies, which makes it deeper than pink and white noise. Samples of white, pink and brown noise can be found on YouTube if you want to see which variation might work well for you.