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What is Pink Noise?

Pink noise is a type of sound in which every octave carries an equal amount of noise energy, creating a balanced, consistent sound across all frequencies that the human ear can perceive. Unlike white noise, which has a higher intensity at higher frequencies, pink noise's power density decreases as the frequency increases, resulting in a deeper, softer sound that many find more soothing and less harsh. It's often compared to the gentle rustle of leaves, steady rain, or the soft murmur of a river, and is sometimes used for sound masking and to promote better sleep. Studies suggest that listening to pink noise can improve sleep and memory; one such study published in "Frontiers in Human Neuroscience" found that pink noise enhances deep sleep and memory recall in older adults.

Given its potential benefits, pink noise has been incorporated into sleep therapy and relaxation techniques. It's particularly favored for its ability to reduce brain wave complexity and induce more stable sleep patterns, which is crucial for cognitive function. The interest in pink noise has grown with the wellness movement, as people seek natural ways to improve sleep quality and reduce stress. While research is ongoing, the existing evidence points to pink noise as a promising tool for those looking to enhance their sleep environment and overall well-being. As with any sound therapy, individual experiences may vary, so it's worth experimenting with pink noise to see if it positively impacts your own sleep and relaxation.

Charity Delich
Charity Delich

Pink noise is a type of signal that contains all of the sound frequencies that fall within the range of a human being’s hearing — from the lowest pitches that a person can hear to the highest tones. A variation of white noise, it is usually created when these audible tones are joined together at the exact same time and density. It is sometimes referred to as 1/f noise or flicker noise.

Distinct from white noise, pink noise emphasizes lower frequencies, and its amplitude drops off at a constant rate for each octave, typically three decibels. With pink signals, lower sound frequencies are usually louder and have more power than higher frequencies. In scientific terms, it has a frequency such that its power spectral density is inversely proportional to its frequency. On the sound frequency spectrum, pink falls between white and red noise, also known as Brownian noise.

Offices may use pink noise to help employees concentrate.
Offices may use pink noise to help employees concentrate.

To a person’s ears, pink noise is often flat, sounding like the buzz on an empty television station or the sound of ocean waves. This resonance is due to the noise being based on octaves rather than on individual frequencies. Typically, it is created by filtering white noise. The octaves occurring within the noise hold equal amounts of frequency, which result in a sound wave that has equal energy at each octave.

To people, pink noise sounds like ocean waves.
To people, pink noise sounds like ocean waves.

Pink noise can be mixed with other noises in order to create sound masking programs. For example, pink sound systems may be designed to simulate running water, a fan, or the sound of the sea. Given its soothing qualities, some people play it as background noise to help them relax. People who have sleep disorders may even purchase specialized pink sound sleep machines to help them doze off or stay sleeping throughout the night.

People with sleep disorders may benefit from pink noise machines to help them sleep through the night.
People with sleep disorders may benefit from pink noise machines to help them sleep through the night.

In particular, this noise is useful in masking low frequency sounds because it contains lower frequency levels than other types of noises. For example, pink sounds can mask noisy cars or loud industrial plants, so some employers play it in their offices to help their employees concentrate.

Pink noises have other uses as well, such as measuring the frequency response of acoustic equipment. Some synthesizers contain dedicated pink signal circuits that are used to simulate sounds like water, gunshots, wind, or explosions. Pink signals are also sometimes used when producing special effects for films, television shows, and video games. Frequently, they are used to test and equalize loudspeakers in rooms and auditoriums.

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Discussion Comments

anon1000066

To post 5 and post 3. You may be suffering from Hyperacusis. See Hyperacusis online. I am not permitted to include a link.

anon938828

I can't find a pink noise or brown (Brownian) noise machine. Need one to help me sleep through neighbor's booming subwoofer bass noise all day and night. I already have two white noise machines that don't mask the neighbor's 84+dBC, <250Hz frequency. I don't want "nature sounds," just low frequency static. Can anyone suggest a brand or website where I can find such a machine?

anon337930

I can handle the sound of traffic passing by, but their booming stereo's irritate me. I also get stressed and angry by people shouting in the street, and having to listen to my neighbours' conversations through the walls of my flat.

anon322317

@anon319739: If certain noises that go unnoticed by other people bother you, some anti-anxiety medications may help. Antidepressants might but for the most part those aren't treating the right condition if you're purely sensitive to certain sounds. I'm not a doctor though. I'd recommend explaining it to your doctor and see what they say. It's not a well-known condition, so don't be surprised if you end up having to do lots of explaining.

anon319739

I hate the noises people make while they eat, so I am pretty sure I have noise anxiety. How do I treat this?

anon310892

@anon247682: If certain sounds that go unnoticed by others bother you, you might be suffering from misophonia. It's a little known neurological condition. Look into it and see if the symptoms sound like what you're experiencing when 'trigger sounds' occur.

anon247682

I am dealing with noise anxiety but don't know which kind. I get angry when people talk at once, make chewing noises, pencil noises, and all the possible noises which are unnoticed makes me irritated. Even a very quiet silence makes me start wondering. I have headaches and I can't bear it. Please help.

mitchell14

I often have trouble sleeping through the night, although I think it has more to do with trying to live with one person who stays up late and one person who gets up early than anything else. However, I might consider a pink noise machine if this keeps being a problem after I move at the end of the year.

panda2006

I had heard before that pink noise can often be more soothing than white noise, and so pink noise generators more helpful for people when trying to sleep. However, I didn't realize it was a technical term as well.

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    • Offices may use pink noise to help employees concentrate.
      By: goodluz
      Offices may use pink noise to help employees concentrate.
    • To people, pink noise sounds like ocean waves.
      By: EpicStockMedia
      To people, pink noise sounds like ocean waves.
    • People with sleep disorders may benefit from pink noise machines to help them sleep through the night.
      By: bramgino
      People with sleep disorders may benefit from pink noise machines to help them sleep through the night.
    • Pink noise may be used to test and equalize loudspeakers at a convert venue.
      By: florinoprea
      Pink noise may be used to test and equalize loudspeakers at a convert venue.