What Is A White Noise Machine?

What Is A White Noise Machine?

Last Updated on by Daniel Lawrence

White noise machines produce white noise, which helps you sleep better. You may ask how. It’s pretty easy. If you want to know how you should read through this review. If you do, you’d have a better understanding of what the white house machine does.

What Is White Noise?

White noise is a type of noise that is produced by combining sounds of all different frequencies. If you took all of the imaginable tones that a human can hear and combined them, you would have white noise.

The adjective “white” is used to describe this type of noise because of the way white light works. White light is light that is made up of all of the different colors (frequencies) of light combined (a prism or a rainbow separates white light back into its component colors). In the same way, white noise is a combination of all of the different frequencies of sound. You can think of white noise as 20,000 tones all playing at the same time.

Because white noise contains all frequencies, it is frequently used to mask other sounds. If you are in a hotel and voices from the room next door are leaking into your room, you might turn on a fan to drown out the voices. The fan produces a good approximation of white noise. Why does that work? Why does white noise drown out voices?

Here is one way to think about it. Let’s say two people are talking at the same time. Your brain can normally “pick out” one of the two voices and actually listen to it and understand it. If three people are talking simultaneously, your brain can probably still pick out one voice.

However, if 1,000 people are talking simultaneously, there is no way that your brain can pick out one voice. It turns out that 1,000 people talking together sounds a lot like white noise. So when you turn on a fan to create white noise, you are essentially creating a source of 1,000 voices. The voice next door makes it 1,001 voices, and your brain can’t pick it out anymore.

What Is A White Noise Machine?

A white noise machine is a device that produces a noise that calms the listener, which in many cases sounds like a rushing waterfall or wind blowing through trees, and other serene or nature-like sounds. Often such devices do not produce actual white noise, which has a harsh sound, but pink noise, whose power rolls off at higher frequencies, or other colors of noise.

White noise devices are available from numerous manufacturers in many forms, for a variety of different uses, including audio testing, sound masking, sleep-aid, and power-napping. Sleep-aid and nap machine products may also produce other soothing sounds, such as music, rain, wind, highway traffic, and ocean waves mixed with—or modulated by—white noise.

Electric fans are a common alternative, although many Asian communities will not use a fan due to the superstition that a fan can suffocate them while sleeping. White noise generators are often used by people with tinnitus to mask their symptoms. The sounds generated by digital machines are not always truly random. Rather, they are short prerecorded audio tracks that continuously repeat at the end of the track.

Manufacturers of sound-masking devices recommend that the volume of white noise machines be initially set at a comfortable level, even if it does not provide the desired level of privacy. As the ear becomes accustomed to the new sound and learns to tune it out, the volume can be gradually increased to increase privacy.

Manufacturers of sleeping aids and power-napping devices recommend that the volume level be set slightly louder than the normal music listening level, but always in a comfortable listening range.

Sound and noise have their own measurement and color-coding techniques, which allow specialized users to identify noise and sound according to their respective needs and utilization. These specialized needs are dependent on certain professions and needs, e.g. a psychiatrist who needs certain sounds for therapies and treatments on a mental level, and patients who have conditioned such as insomnia, anxiety, and, tinnitus (these conditions are managed with special devices which are designed to create certain sounds that treat such conditions at a mental level).

A white noise machine has “white” as the color code given to that noise having a particular frequency spectrum.

How do White Noise Machines Work?

A white noise machine, sometimes also called a sound machine or sound conditioner, is a device that produces a stream of background noise – typically the type of sound that mathematically qualifies as “white noise”, though sometimes these machines actually produce pink noise or brown noise instead. They’re designed to help people sleep better and focus by drowning out distracting sounds. They can be especially helpful for people with tinnitus since they drown out the distracting buzzing or ringing sound the disease causes.

Types of White Noise Machines

There are two types of white noise machines: those that play a loop of white noise sound, and those that generate sound.

Also worth noting are white noise apps. These can be useful for those on a tight budget, as many of them are free or very cheap, but the noise that comes from tiny phone speakers isn’t typically very high-quality and lacks many of the benefits of a purpose-built white noise machine.

While some people don’t mind them, white noise machines or apps that play sound on a loop can become annoying over time, even if the cut between loops isn’t jarring (which it sometimes is). Therefore, most high-quality sound machines play non-looping white noise.

A subset of non-looping white noise is actual fan sound, as is found in the Dohm, which has a real fan inside. This creates a more soothing sound than a box fan, with heavily adjustable volume and pitch. As it isn’t pre-recorded, you avoid the problems that come with recorded or looped sound.

Can white noise be harmful?

Why are so many people spending their hard-earned dollars on apps and machines to play white noise throughout the night?

Though there isn’t good proof, the machines and apps may work for some people, Basner said. “There simply is not enough research out there, so we can neither conclude they work nor that they are harmful,” he added.

Besides, the white noise may be habit-forming in its own way. “Once you have made the machines or apps as part of your sleep ritual, it can be hard changing your routine,” Basner said.

Basner worries that we may one day find that these white noisemakers are harming our hearing. Just like our brains need downtime, so must our ears, he explained. Until more is known, we should make sure the white noise is turned down as low as possible, he said.

Choosing a White Noise Machine

A white noise machine, also known as a sound machine, can help you create a more relaxing bedroom environment that promotes healthy, high-quality sleep. In addition to white noise and other noise colors, these devices often produce ambient and natural sounds such as chirping birds and crashing waves. Before choosing a machine, here are a few factors to consider:

  • Price: Most white noise machines cost less than $100. Higher-end models typically offer a wider selection of noises and sounds.
  • Size: Sound machines are generally lightweight and compact, though some are exceptionally small and designed for travel.
  • Sleep Timer: Some sound machines have programmable timers that will automatically shut off the device after a certain amount of time.
  • Looping: If you’ve gone with a noise machine that uses sound recordings, instead of mechanical noise, then be mindful of recordings that don’t loop smoothly—meaning that you can hear when the recording ends and then begins again. This is problematic because it’s not the noise necessarily that wakes you up, it’s the change in noise. And a perceptibly different sound between the end and the beginning can jolt you out of sleep, which defeats the purpose.
  • Alarm: Sound machines often feature a built-in alarm to help you wake up at certain times.
  • There’s also so-called “pink noise” and “brown noise,” which can sound similar to white noise but have different underlying acoustical properties. While white noise is composed of a more or less equal mix of low-, medium-, and high-frequency sounds, pink noise, and brown noise emphasize low-frequency tones to a greater degree. Grandner describes pink noise as a hiss while brown noise is more of a shush. White noise falls somewhere in between.

It is also interesting to note that there are also so-called “pink noise” and “brown noise,” which can sound similar to white noise but have different underlying acoustical properties. While white noise is composed of a more or less equal mix of low-, medium-, and high-frequency sounds, pink noise, and brown noise emphasize low-frequency tones to a greater degree. Grandner describes pink noise as a hiss while brown noise is more of a shush. White noise falls somewhere in between.


If white noise machines help you doze off faster or stay asleep longer, that may be reason enough to stick with your routine.