Too Noisy or Too Quiet to Focus? Try One of These!

By | 2013-11-07

Many moons ago, I was based in a call center that was essentially a big cube farm. That’s where I became aware of white noise generators that are available from companies like White Noise Direct and Logison.

That hissing sound you often hear in an office may not be the air conditioning. It may be white, or pink or even brown noise that is purposely played above the ceiling tiles – to suppress background noise. Intentionally adding white noise into a loud or very chatty environment can effectively mask the conversations being held by coworkers around you.  This makes it possible to work more effectively in close proximity to others without being overheard by the people they are talking to on the phone. You could also think of it as another way to increase privacy of conversations.

Similarly, imagine being in a quiet environment where you can hear each and every conversation in the entire office as clear as if they were sitting next to you. This works out well when you are multitasking and consciously paying attention to everything going on around you. It’s not so good for those who are knee deep in a project and need to concentrate on it fully without interruption.

Considering this, and a personal interest in maximizing my single-tasking time, I have recently found a few background noise suppression solutions which I now use every day. The first is



The image above shows the simple controls on the Options are White, Pink, Brown, Oscillate and Timer. Pretty simple. Here are some excerpts from their site on the differences.

White Noise – Contains sound across all frequencies. White noise is the most effective at blocking distractions because it covers the largest spectrum range. It’s great for reading, writing, studying, and anything else that requires focus.

Pink Noise – A blend of high and low frequencies that produce a mesmerizing waterfall effect. Pink noise is great for melting away stress while keeping you alert and energized. The airy pulse creates a therapeutic environment that relaxes your mind and body.

Brown Noise – Utilizes the lower sound frequencies to generate a deep ambient rumble. Brown noise is excellent for aiding sleep, pacifying children and pets, and even masking Tinnitus. It’s also great for breaking in audio equipment and soothing migraines.

SimplyNoise also offers the option of downloading a 60 minute .MP3 via their Pay Whatever You Want downloads page. Just contribute any amount you want via PayPal, $1, $2.42, $10, whatever. Available downloads include: Thunderstorm, Babbling Brook, Summer Waves as well as their Signature White, Pink and Brown Noise.

SimplyNoise is also available as an app on Google Play and the iTunes App Store. They also offer SimplyRain which offers a thunder option. SimplyRain is also available in the iTunes App Store.

There’s another problem related to the background noise paradigm. Many of us have experienced the challenge of finding the ‘right place’ to study. Sometimes the library can feel just too quiet so we look for somewhere with background sounds. Music can be effective but, if you’re a music lover like me, you’ll tend to pay attention to it instead of what you should be concentrating on. So that class of sound has the potential to be counterproductive if chosen unwisely. In fact, research shows it’s pretty hard to be creative in a quiet space and a loud workplace can be frustrating and distracting. However, the mix of calm and commotion in an environment like a coffee house is proven to be just what you need to get those creative juices flowing. Enter Coffitivity. (BTW, there’s a link to that research on their home page.) provides the vibe of a coffee shop right to your desktop or smart phone speakers. Just enough noise to work when you don’t want silence or the clear chatter of people around you. I suggest headphones or at least ear buds. They tend to keep passers by from stopping by to chat too.

There are Coffitivity apps available on the iTunes App Store and the Mac App Store. They have optimized their website for mobile devices so you can listen from just about any smart phone.

In all honesty, I use these so much that I will be putting links to them on my home pages…

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