Decoding Coloured Noise And Its Impact On Overall Well-being

Decoding Coloured Noise And Its Impact On Overall Well-being

Discover the palette of noise and how it can benefit the overall well-being of an individual, when used efficiently

Shloka ShuklaUpdated: Tuesday, June 11, 2024, 01:34 PM IST
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During the IPL channel showed the ‘shor’ decibles every time a popular cricketer walked in or got out. The commentators kept talking about the noise that the spectators made and the various instruments that spectators played to increase the decibles.

Everyone also continuously talks about noise pollution in metropolitan cities. However, nobody really talks about how sound and noise can also have a positive impact on a person’s life. Sound has been used for healing since olden times in India and some older cultures in the West. Varied spectrums come together for Sound Therapy. Most doctors use varied music formats for therapy. ‘Noises’, too, are a part of this therapy.

When it comes to sound, there is a fascinating spectrum that goes beyond the melodies and rhythms of our music. This spectrum is known as "coloured noises," a term that encompasses various types of noises, characterised by their unique frequency distributions.

Unlike the structured patterns found in music, coloured noises offer a more specific and soothing auditory experience.

What is coloured noise?

Coloured noise refers to sounds that are made up of different frequencies with specific power or intensity. This makes each noise unique on its own and benefits the users differently.

The concept is rooted in the concept of sound waves. These noises are named after colours to draw an analogy with the visual spectrum and make them easier to label and identify.

“White light is made up of different colour wavelengths. Similarly, noise is made up of different frequency spectrum sound waves. Coloured noise has different mixes of sound frequencies. It technically refers to the power spectrum of a noise signal as a function of frequency,” says Dr Ashutosh Shah, Consultant Psychiatrist, Sir HN Reliance Foundation.

Different types

To understand coloured noise, first we need to grasp the concept of different types of noises and their associated colours. Following are the common types of noises:

White Noise: White noise is widely used for its masking properties. It can drown other sounds, making it useful for creating a background sound that helps people concentrate, sleep, or relax. White noise contains frequencies that have equal powers. “White noise can be equated with white light — a mix of every frequency on the sound spectrum that healthy human ears can hear (usually from 20 hertz to 20,000 hertz),” says Dr Shah.

This equal distribution means that every frequency is equally represented, creating a consistent and steady sound. For example- the sound of a vacuum cleaner, or the sound of static from televisions and radios.

Pink noise: In the case of pink noise, the power decreases as the frequency increases. This results in a sound that is deeper and less sharp than white noise. For example — the sound of rain or the rustling of leaves. The balanced nature of pink noise, where lower frequencies are more prominent, makes it particularly soothing. It has been found to improve sleep quality and enhance cognitive functioning by promoting a stable environment.

Brown noise: Brown noise is much deeper than pink noise. It is characterised by a strong low-frequency component, reminiscent of a distant thunder or a heavy waterfall. The low frequency makes it particularly effective for masking sounds such as traffic or industrial noise. It has a deep, rumbling quality that can be relaxing for many.

Green noise: Green noise has started to gain some popularity for its unique properties. It is the most natural-sounding noise. Green noise focuses on the frequencies most prevalent in serene, natural environments, such as the sounds of forests, and rivers. It has the power to create a tranquil environment that promotes relaxation and restores a sense of well-being and contentment within an individual and thus, it can be leveraged to reduce stress and enhance mental clarity.

Black noise: In a way, black noise can be used to describe complete silence. It is essentially a noise signal with almost zero power level. It represents the absence of noise or a minimal level of sound, which contrasts sharply with the other types of coloured noise.

Black noise highlights the importance of silence and how the absence of noise can be just as significant as the presence of it. “Noise that is pleasant can truly help some people. However, individual differences will always be there. Some people cannot sleep if there is any noise. They need silence,” says Dr Harish Shetty MD, Psychiatrist, Dr LH Hiranandani Hospital.

Coloured noise v/s Music

Coloured noise and music both involve sound, but they are fundamentally different in structure and purpose. Music is characterised by organized patterns of rhythm, melody, and harmony. It is composed of various notes and intentional arrangements designed to tell individual stories or provide us with a message. Music often follows specific rules involving specific scales, chords, and time signatures, which gives it a structured and predictable form.

In contrast, coloured noise lacks these structured patterns. It is defined by its random and continuous nature. While music is composed to create a specific auditory experience, coloured noise is used to create a neutral background. 

While music is usually created for active listening, coloured noise is typically used for passive one. It can be used to aid in sleep, concentration, or relaxation without focusing on the sound itself.

“The simplest way to explain the difference between noise and music is that the former is a disordered sound and the latter is an ordered sound. Music will have a specific beat, rhythm, or melody which will not be the case for noise,” says Dr Shah.

Coloured noises offer a fascinating exploration into the world of sound, providing unique auditory experiences. Understanding these noises can enhance our knowledge and provide new ways to utilize sound for our overall well-being.

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