What is white noise?

White noise is the noise created when all the audible frequencies of sound are combined at the same time and the same density. It is similar in nature to white light, which occurs when all the colors of the spectrum come together. This noise incorporates more than 20,000 frequencies. Also called white noise, it is mainly used as an aid to sleep or relax.

The actual sound produced by white noise is comparable to rain or ocean waves. It is a soft tone that can be found in nature. Because it combines all sound frequencies ranging from very low tones to high tones, it is very useful for masking other noises and sounds.

Fans and non-broadcasting radio stations are often used as white noise simulators, providing a soothing sound that blocks out other background noise. While these methods do not produce true white noise, their effects are a good example of practical uses for sound. However, the main drawback to using this variety is that the user has no control over the volume or the frequencies produced in this way.

A pure white signal can only be produced by generators, commercially available as "white noise machines". While expensive and quite large and cumbersome, these machines are useful for people with sleep disorders or inner ear problems, babies who have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, and those who want to deal with stress. White noise cancels out background noise and produces a soothing, relaxing sound. Students and those working in the creative arts use it to block out outside sounds that might be distracting. It also appears to have some benefit for children and adults diagnosed with attention deficit disorder and its related conditions, as the masking effect allows for better concentration.

Consumers can also buy white noise that has been burned to CD, which is less expensive than investing in a machine. In addition to cost effectiveness, CDs allow the user to alter the bass and treble of the noise to mask the softer or louder background sounds in any location. Recorded media featuring nature sounds work in the same way. Other uses for this noise include frequency testing for electronic equipment, architectural acoustics testing, and use as sensory deprivation aids. Musicians use it in electronic music to simulate higher or lower percussion sounds than are available through traditional instruments.

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