Can’t Focus? Try Brown Noise.

Picture this: you’re walking along the Charles, the sun is shining and you’re listening to your favorite song without a care in the world.

Listening to music has the unique ability to transport you to a different time and place, boost your serotonin levels and cut five minutes off your walk to class when you need it to. With apps like Spotify and Apple Music at our fingertips, any song is available in seconds with the touch of a button. 

Whether I’m walking down Comm. Ave., doing the laundry or hitting the gym, I always have my favorite songs playing on repeat in my headphones. However, there’s an exception to my love of music while I’m busy. I can’t listen to music while I work. 

The songs that I love tend to distract me from readings and problem sets because I’ll likely be singing along instead of logging onto Blackboard. This begs the question — what can I listen to while I work? 

If this sounds like a familiar struggle, you might find that listening to brown noise while working can help you focus through the final stretch of this semester. 

What is brown noise? 

I like to think of it as the lesser-known cousin of white noise. Almost everyone is familiar with the crashing waves and rain sounds of white noise, but there’s an entire color spectrum of background soundscapes, ranging from pink to brown. 

White noise is staticky, pink is a softer variation of white and brown noise is a combination of all the sound frequencies perceivable to the human ear. The frequencies that make up brown noise create a low pitched rumbling effect that sounds heavy and all-encompassing, almost like a weighted blanket for your ears. 

Recently, brown noise has become especially popular among listeners with ADHD, who find that it helps to quiet distracting thoughts and allows for longer periods of focus.

I found brown noise the same way that others did — through the power of social media. A period of procrastinatory scrolling led me to an article describing this new focus phenomenon and its ability to drastically improve your productivity levels. The next thing I knew, I was looking up brown noise playlists on Spotify. They quickly became essential to my study routine. The low humming sound gives my subconscious something to latch onto, allowing my conscious mind to focus on arduous readings without background thoughts interrupting every other paragraph. 

Thanks to this new study soundtrack, I’m able to work uninterrupted for longer periods of time without feeling overwhelmed or distracted by more lively background noises like the sounds of a busy cafe or library. 

If you’re one of those lucky individuals who can actually focus while listening to their favorite songs, maybe brown noise isn’t your holy grail, and that’s okay. 

Between holiday shopping, looming finals and assignments piled high in the coming weeks, it’s safe to say that we could all use a little extra push to get into focus mode this season, and there’s no universal solution to the end-of-semester struggle. 

However, if you find yourself wondering how long the Questrom Starbucks line is while trying to get through a tough study session, consider giving brown noise the old college try. It might help you overcome those distracting thoughts.

Whether you’re a focus fanatic, a music major or someone looking for an escape from the constant Comm. Ave. road noise, try listening to something new this finals season.

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