Trauma Centre Australia


If a traumatic incident occurs in your workplace, we will be there to help you and your organistion deal with it.


What is White Noise?

April 20, 2014

White noise is a signal, process or sound that has a flat power spectral density. There may be a vast range of frequencies however each range has a uniformed frequency spectrum. You may be more familiar with white noise as an inconspicuous background noise such as a running shower, fish tank or fan. Pure digitally generated white noise is used to warrant a soothing, calming sound and has an adequate spectrum to partially disguise ear noise. Pure white noise does not stimulate strong emotional responses.

The use of white noise is often created and mimicked in work place organisations to minimise obtrusive sounds. Deviations of white noise are commonly used by parents to comfort crying babies prior to sleep. Many individuals also find white noise beneficial listening either with or without accompanying soft music via their listening preference of stereo, Ipod or clock radio. Classic habituation therapy suggests avoidance of accompanying low music due to possible associations generating emotional reactions.

Sleep dysfunction is a common symptom amongst individuals with acute stress disorder and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The application of prescriptive white noise for sleep-aid presents advantages over other medications due to the safety and cost factors of white noise. Individuals suffering from PTSD and acute stress disorder can potentially benefit from white noise as a startle-prevention technique. White noise has the ability to effectively mask obtrusive noises such as barking dogs, car alarms and strong winds.

Does white noise contain hypnotic properties which effective induce sleep? A controlled experiment conducted for a research paper, found evidence of 80% of the sample size expose to white noise fell within a 5 minute period. It could be suggested that white noise can increase sleep quality and duration, decrease number of awakenings, ease one back to sleep and deepen sleep depth. It is recommended that further conclusive research is conducted in relation to white noise and sleep.

Another interesting paper highlighted evidence that there is a decrease in norepinephrine concentration in the auditory pathways of rats after white noise exposure. The application of white noise could act as a hyper-arousal reduction approach for those with PTSD and stress-mediated disorders.

A common behavioural disturbance experienced by nursing home residents is verbal agitation. An interesting study was completed on environmental white noise as an individualised intervention with results indicating a 23% reduction in verbal agitation.

The increase and severity of noise pollution in today’s society poses as a threat to health and well-being. Obtrusive noise is imposed through widespread growth of mass commercial production and transportation traffic. These adverse effects impact our social, working and residential environment. Although more conclusive studies need to be carried out on the effectiveness of white noise, research has shown that there are benefits to white noise exposure in relation to sleep dysfunctions, PTSD and agitation.

Josephine Peachey

Trainee Counsellor