Dr. Patricia Farrell on Medika Life

The “Colors” of Sounds Have an Effect on All of Us

Who knew sounds had "colors" which specifically affect us in terms of attention, mood, and relaxation? Now we know.

Forest bathing is having its day in the sunshine of research, which is beneficial. Why? What can we get from walking in a forest or park or simply out in the fresh air? Fresh air, hopefully, but there’s more there than we realize, and now that extra little something is coming up for air, and it’s sound. And it’s not restricted to forest or garden environments because this is something we can take with us, have in our homes or use in other aspects of our lives.

Have you ever thought that sound might have colors like white, pink, or brown? The naming may be something new, with the possible exception of white noise used in some therapeutic environments to protect confidentiality.

But the concept of specific sounds and how they may be helpful therapeutically has been receiving renewed attention since a non-scientist, Irv Teibel, began recording nature’s sounds in 1969. The true benefit of these aspects of nature and other sounds in the human aural spectrum would take time to be realized as having broad utility in healthcare or activities that require freedom from distraction.

Noise, or should we refer to it as sound differences according to the wavelength or frequency it comes across, is delineated in several different “colors. The colors currently identified include white, green, brown, pink, violet, blue, and gray noise. There’s even red noise, a form of brown noise by another name.

If all of this is confusing, it is understandable. Still, it is an interesting aspect of how sound, a.k.a. noise, might help treat psychological disorders, reduce stress, or assist us in our everyday activities.

Clinicians use white noise machines to mask discussions in their offices. Many small machines producing this audio signal are readily available to anyone. The frequency is 40 Hz to 60 Hz and may vary according to its use. Each noise, except white noise, may have a specific service and produce different effects on anyone listening to it.

Of course, black noise is the absence of sound (silence), as it would usually be called. The intricacies of these noise productions or the physics involved will not be discussed here but only offered as potential research for anyone interested in sound production and how sound may be manipulated for best use in, for example, music in therapeutic settings, work, academic efforts, writing, etc. And sound has found a home in assisting those with ADHD.

Empirically, white noise therapy has been able to improve specific tasks affected by ADHD symptoms, including speech recognition and reading and writing speed. Educational performance is one of the prime areas where any intervention, such as sound utility, might be effective. Without early intervention, this disorder has a negative effect on their lives, their educational efforts, their career opportunities, and also the social interactions they may pursue in the future.

White noise has been used in a variety of settings with several patient populations. It has been found helpful in intensive care to decrease the arousal of patients and help with sleep onset. White noise has also been found to have shown some behavioral and psychological improvements in elderly patients with dementia and schizophrenia.

It is also helpful in word and visual-spatial tasks in young and elderly adults. Students have shown improvement in new word recall compared to periods of silence. In addition to these benefits, white noise has also been proven to have some ability to diminish impulsivity in children with ADHD and working memory.

How might we use sound in our daily lives at home and work? Many will choose to listen to certain types of music to energize them, others another style to create a quiet background against which they want to work. I suppose that’s why an album of recordings of Gregorian chants made the hit list of popular music charts. The album sold four million copies worldwide. The artist Ravi Shankar released his “Chants of India” when a music company wanted to continue their “chants” success.

One experiment tested several sounds to identify which might promote concentration and verbal reasoning in an office environment. The six different sounds were classified into the music group, including running water sound (RW), pure classic music (PM), classic music with lyrics (ML), and noise group, including intelligible speech (IS), mechanical noise of keyboard and printer (MN), and telephone ring (TR).

The varying results were attributed to the task, and the type of sound played. On the one hand, different activities and tasks consumed different mental workload resources, and on the other hand, different types of background sounds might have different effects on each kind of mental workload resource, so that the effects of one background sound might vary when subjects engaged in different jobs.

Summing it all up would indicate that sound and how we utilize it can benefit us in all of our environments. Sound downloads and videos are available for free download (some have fees) at the following:


Other sites are available, but carefully read the terms of use. YouTube has many videos with sound.

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Pat Farrell PhD
Pat Farrell PhDhttps://medium.com/@drpatfarrell
I'm a licensed psychologist in NJ/FL and have been in the field for over 30 years serving in most areas of mental health, psychiatry research, consulting, teaching (post-grad), private practice, consultant to WebMD and writing self-help books. Currently, I am concentrating on writing articles and books.


Medika Editor: Mental Health

I'm a licensed psychologist in NJ/FL and have been in the field for over 30 years serving in most areas of mental health, psychiatry research, consulting, teaching (post-grad), private practice, consultant to WebMD and writing self-help books. Currently, I am concentrating on writing articles and books.

Patricia also acts in an editorial capacity for Medika's mental health articles, providing invaluable input on a wide range of mental health issues.

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