ADHD and White Noise

Check out more papers on Abnormal Psychology ADHD essay Attention

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, more commonly known as ADHD, is an inheritable, meaning that it can run in families, developmental disorder. ADHD falls into a broad spectrum of neuro-developmental disorders and is typically characterized by hyperactivity, learning difficulty, inability to focus and/or sustain attention, and impulsiveness. Typically, ADHD is diagnosed around age 7, but it can actually manifest across the lifespan. In the United States of America alone, it is estimated that between 3-7% of all children are suffering from ADHD (Boong-Nyun et al., 2010).

Don't use plagiarized sources. Get your custom essay on

“ADHD and White Noise”

Get custom essay

As our knowledge of and research into ADHD expands, we have seen that ADHD is much more than an inability to focus, hyperness, and difficulty concentrating. ADHD has also been shown to affect the working memory of its victims (Watcher, 2008).

Multiple areas of the brain have been the focus and received the blame for causing ADHD. From the frontal cortex, to the cerebellum, to white matter, and even glial cells (Garrett, 2009). Perhaps one of the most interesting findings in the last decade has been that, according to MRI scans, most ADHD patients have decreased volume in the prefrontal and temporal cortexes, denser gray matter, and reduced amounts of white matter (Garrett, 2009). In laymen’s terms, people with ADHD have smaller, more active brains than their counterparts. A simple analogy would be the ADHD brain is a Chihuahua and the average brain is a Saint Bernard. One is always active and reactive to even the smallest things, constantly jumping and barking with and without reason; whereas the other is a balance of activity and rest, lazy and watchful until something warrants attention and reaction. Another interesting thing about ADHD is that it has also been associated with catecholamine dysfunction, which is important for response selection and memory formation (Espen-Borga et al, 2009).

Ritalin has long been the most well known and effective treatment for ADHD, effectively used for over 60 years and successfully reducing approximately 70% of symptoms in children suffering from ADHD (Swanson et. al., 1998). However, as research has expanded, anti-depressants, SSRIs, and norepinephrine enhancers, like Concerta, Adderall, Straterra, and Focalin, have been successfully used to treat ADHD, with less side effects (Baijot et al., 2016; Garrett, 2009).

It has long been known that cognitive processing is easily disturbed by incompatible environmental stimulation which distracts attention from tasks and that ADHD individuals are more vulnerable to the distraction than normal (Geffner et al, 1996). Such incompatible stimulation includes: classroom visitors, group work, other student’s misbehaving, etc. Such occurrences can easily get ADHD students off task and make it extremely difficult to pick back up on their train of thought. Other students’ misbehaving is especially bad, as it can perpetuate the ADHD child’s rambunctiousness. In recent years, it has been demonstrated that certain types of task irrelevant white noise can actually improve the memory performance of ADHD students (Geran et al, 2010).

Key Terms

Optimal Stimulation, in humans, is the tendency to develop and/or acquire reactions in which, when we are faced with too little stimulation, we increase our stimulation, and when too much stimulation is occurring, we decrease out stimulation. For example, tapping a pen or pencil in a quiet room, while taking an exam or having completed an exam versus leaving the room or using noise reducing/cancelling devices if we are surrounded by too much auditory stimulation. People, especially children with ADHD often self stimulate and/or seek stimulation. This can be anything from bouncing their feet, to tapping pencils, to lip smacking. Optimal Stimulation Theory suggests that we can reduce self stimulatory behaviors in ADHD children by increasing environmental stimulants, because, ultimately ADHD are under-aroused by environmental stimulation, which results in their off task behaviors and distractibility (Leuba, 1955).

Stimulus Reduction Theory is the counterargument of Optimal Stimulation Theory. This theory argues that the reason children with ADHD are so hyperactive and distractible is because they cannot filter out irrelevant environmental stimulation (Strauss & Lehtinen, 1947). For example, an oscillating fan would provide a place of fixed attention and overwhelm a student’s ability to focus on the voice of his/her teacher. Therefore, stimulation should be reduced to help promote performance. However, as we have seen in studies such as Sneddon (2004) the Stimulus Reduction Theory does not have significant supporting evidence and has even failed in classroom applications.

Moderate Brain Arousal is a theoretical model for ADHD that is currently garnering attention and research. MBA takes aspects from both Optimal Stimulation and Stimulus Reduction Theory, and suggests that under-aroused ADHD children will seek stimulation ad self stimulate, but that these same students will see poor attention and irritability when they are over stimulated. MBA also makes use of the idea of Stochastic Resonance, which is the name for the phenomenon in which we each have an optimal amount of noise that is beneficial for our cognitive performance. For example, some people like quiet to study and cannot focus with any noise, whereas others listen to classical music and even rock to help them focus (So?€derlund, Gustafsson, & Bjork, 2016).


Typically, it is thought and believed that noise adversely effects and impairs cognitive performance, especially in children with ADHD. However, many studies conflict with this concept. Multiple studies suggest that children and adolescents with ADHD actually perform better, have less off task behavior, and experience better memory and attention during periods of white and/or pink noise than they do in quieter environments and/or silence. Research studies by Angwin et al. (2018), Cook, Bradley-Johnson, & Johnson (2015), Han et al. (2013), Helps et al. (2014), Korman et al. (2017), Proverbio et al. (2018), and Tegelbeckers et al. (2015) have all found that auditory white noise can improve memory performance of students with ADHD and decrease inattentiveness and off task behaviors. Several of the aforementioned studies also held to the idea that the white noise was effective in these students because it raised student’s stimulation to optimal levels, as suggested by Optimal Stimulation Theory and MBA Models. Soderlund et al. (2010) and Baijot et al. (2016) even provided indications that children and adolescents experiencing inattentiveness without ADHD benefit from the use of classroom white noise.

Not all studies, however, demonstrate that noise has a facilitative effect on cognitive performance. One study by Cook, Bradley-Johnson, & Johnson (2014), showed no change in the academic performance of ADHD students when they used white noise, but a minor reduction in off-task behaviors.

There has also been significant research showing that noise can be detrimental to cognitive focus and ability. Dalton and Behm (2007) and Kampe, Sedlmeier, & Pekewitz (2010) demonstrated in their research studies that there are instances in which background noise can be detrimental to performance, as well as providing inconsistent results. Both Dalton’s study and Kampe’s study have shown that while the background music can have a positive effect on motivation and emotional response, it negatively effects the cognitive processing of language.


Significant numbers of research studies suggest that low level white noise can significantly reduce off task behaviors of students with attention deficit disorders. Most of the literature suggests that the attention and memory of students with attention disorders is improved through the use of white noise. Furthermore, the research significantly implies that the implementation of white noise in classrooms not only helps students receiving drug therapy for ADHD, but may also provide an option for struggling students with ADHD who’s parents are resistant to drug therapies.

Did you like this example?

Cite this page

ADHD and White Noise. (2019, Aug 07). Retrieved December 6, 2022 , from

Save time with Studydriver!

Get in touch with our top writers for a non-plagiarized essays written to satisfy your needs

Get custom essay

Stuck on ideas? Struggling with a concept?

A professional writer will make a clear, mistake-free paper for you!

Get help with your assigment
Leave your email and we will send a sample to you.
Stop wasting your time searching for samples!
You can find a skilled professional who can write any paper for you.
Get unique paper

I'm Chatbot Amy :)

I can help you save hours on your homework. Let's start by finding a writer.

Find Writer