Life is full of distractions. This can be especially true when you're a student. Attempting to study can be a real challenge when outside noise constantly competes for your attention. Finding a way to focus can be challenging, whether it's the party next door or your housemates.
There are, however, some things that you can do to help yourself focus while you study. Listening to sounds to help study is one of the best ways to minimize distractions and boost concentration. From soothing nature sounds to music, aural stimulation can help you focus and get the most out of your study sessions.
In this article, we'll look at some of the reasons that sound can considerably aid concentration. Then, we'll check out the scientific research into the field before exploring three different kinds of sound and listing the best background noise for studying and sounds to help you focus.
It's long been known that sounds can affect our ability to focus. The right sound can help us feel more relaxed while aiding concentration. This is because our brains are incredibly good at filtering out background noise.
This means that when trying to concentrate on a specific task, we can ignore sounds that usually bother us. For example, you may be able to focus on your studies while there's music playing in the background. However, if you tried to listen to music and study simultaneously, you'd likely find focusing much more challenging.
This filtering ability of our brains is known as the ‘cocktail party’ effect. It refers to how we can focus on a specific conversation at a party-despite all the other noises around us. This, in turn, is an example of what's known as selective attention. This is when we focus on a specific thing while filtering out other distractions.
For example, have you ever been in a situation where you've been trying to concentrate on a conversation, but someone keeps interrupting you? If so, you likely used selective attention to filter out the interruption and focus on the exchange.
There is evidence from our everyday experiences that sounds can significantly impact our ability to focus. But what does science say about using sounds to help us concentrate? Let's take a look.
A growing body of scientific evidence suggests that there are sounds that help you focus. For example, the impact of classical music on productivity has been a popular topic of discussion since the early 1990s. In 1993, a study found that listening for just 10 minutes can temporarily improve spatial and reasoning skills. While replications of the original experiment have had mixed results, many researchers still believe there is at least some correlation between music and productivity.
Another recent study conducted in 2018 showed that autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) might be one of the sounds that help you focus. These sounds produce a particular sensation in the listener, usually described as a pleasant tingling. Usually, ASMR sound will be incredibly high quality and singularly focused. Equally, these sounds could lower heart rates and positively influence mental and physical health.
Additional studies into different sounds have found a powerful correlation between sounds and their effect on the brain. In 2015, researchers from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute found that employees' mood and cognitive abilities improved when they worked with nature sounds playing in the background. Three years later, a further study found that cerebral alertness improves when people work while listening to natural sounds such as rain.
Meanwhile, a study completed in 2019 found that moderate levels of white noise can improve performance during cognitive tasks. They did this by using functional MRI (fMRI) to test the impact of low-intensity noise on memory performance. Another study at the University of Queensland found that listening to white noise helps adults memorize new words and enhances cognitive function.
So, there's some scientific evidence to suggest that there are indeed sounds that help you focus. But what is the best background noise for studying? Let's look at three of the most popular types of sound.
There are three main types of sounds for concentration that experts recommend: background noise, nature sounds, and music. Let's look at each of them in turn.
White noise is a type of sound that contains all sound frequencies evenly. This means that it sounds like a hissing or humming noise. White noise is often used to help people concentrate because it can help to mask other sounds that might be distracting.
For example, if you're trying to study in a coffee shop, the sound of people chatting and coffee machines may be distracting. But listening to white noise can help mask those sounds and make it easier for you to focus on your studies.
If you want to try listening to white noise while you study, there are a few different ways to do it. You could download a white noise app, listen to white noise online, or even use a fan or air purifier to create white noise. White noise might be the best background noise for studying.
Pink noise is similar to white noise but contains more low-frequency than high-frequency sounds. This means it sounds less like a hissing noise and a little bit like rain or waves.
Again, Brown noise is similar to white and pink noise, but it contains even more low-frequency sounds. This means that it sounds even more like the sound of rain or waves.
Grey noise is a mix of white noise and pink noise. It contains all sound frequencies but has more low-frequency sounds than high-frequency sounds. This means it sounds like a mixture of hissing and rumbling noises.
If you're unsure which background noise is best for studying, it's worth trying out a few different types to see which works best.
If you're looking for something a little more natural, try listening to calming nature sounds for studying. The sound of rain, waves, or forest animals has been shown to help reduce stress levels, improve concentration, and relax the mind. Different types of nature sounds can be used for various purposes. Some people use nature sounds for concentration, while others use nature sounds for studying.
Some of the best nature sounds for studying include:
You may have noticed that three of these nature sounds for studying include water. This is because the sound of water is exceptionally relaxing and can help to calm the mind. If you find it difficult to concentrate, try listening to these or other water sounds.
Nature sounds for studying can be used in the same way as background noise. You could download a nature sound app, listen to nature sounds online, or even just put on a recording of rain.
Numerous studies have shown that listening to music while studying or working can help you retain information better and boost your productivity.
So why does using music and sounds for concentration work? Well, it all has to do with how our brains process information. When we listen to music, our brains release dopamine, a neurotransmitter that helps regulate mood and motivation. This dopamine release not only makes us feel good but also allows us to concentrate better and be more productive.
Now that we know why music is so good for concentration, let's look at the best type for studying and boosting productivity.
Classical music is often cited as the best type of music for studying. This is because it is generally quite relaxing and has no lyrics that can distract us from our work. Numerous studies have shown that classical music can help improve memory recall and increase focus.
Five classical tracks to get you started:
If you're not into classical, ambient music might be a better option for studying and concentration. This type of music is typically relatively slow and calming, making it perfect for studying or working on tasks that require a lot of mental focus.
Five ambient tracks to consider:
Like classical music, jazz is a great genre for concentration and productivity, making it one of the perfect sounds to help study. This is because it is often quite mellow and has no fast-paced or energetic tracks to distract us from our work. Jazz music has also been shown to improve cognitive function and memory recall.
Five jazz tracks to listen to:
Instrumental music is also great for concentration. The lack of lyrics means that our brains aren't distracted by trying to process words, allowing us to focus more on the task at hand. Instrumental music has also been shown to lower stress levels and anxiety, making it perfect for those who find it difficult to concentrate when feeling overwhelmed.
Five instrumental tracks to start with:
Meditation music is another excellent option for those seeking the best music for studying. This type of music is typically quite relaxing and can help calm the mind, making it easier to focus on the task. Meditation music has also been shown to lower stress levels and anxiety, making it perfect for those who find it difficult to concentrate when feeling overwhelmed.
Five meditation tracks to have a look at:
Sometimes, when it comes to studying, concentration isn't the issue. Instead, you simply can't face putting pen to paper. You need to boost your mood and motivation levels, and with some help from the science of sound, you can get that little extra push needed to get through your study.
Uplifting music is the best type of music for studying when you need a boost of energy and motivation. This type of music typically has a fast tempo and can help increase alertness and focus. Numerous studies have shown that uplifting music can improve mood, increase productivity, and reduce stress.
Five uplifting tracks to get you in a positive mood:
As well as music, other sounds can help to uplift your mood and motivation levels. These again include nature sounds and some visualization techniques, which can also help.
Some of the best sounds for improving mood and motivation include:
While there are lots of ways to listen to music when you’re studying, nature sounds and classical music can only do so much. Oftentimes, when you feel too distracted and unable to focus on anything, you need a scientifically proven tool to help you study. And Pzizz offers the perfect solution. Our app uses a variety of customized sounds and scientifically proven techniques to help you focus, fall asleep at night, or take a power nap. Pzizz makes studying easier than ever. All you need to do is download the app, put on your headphones, choose Focus, and let us do the rest. If you're struggling to concentrate this finals season, give the free Pzizz trial a go via the Apple App Store or Google Play.
While some sounds can help you concentrate and stimulate the mind, certain sounds can have the opposite effect. These sounds can be distracting and make it difficult to focus on the task.
Some of the worst sound offenders when it comes to studying distractions include:
Loud and fast-paced music can be very distracting when trying to study. The lyrics can also be a distraction, as your brain will try to process them instead of focusing on the task. If you want to listen to music while studying, it's best to stick to instrumental tracks with little or no lyrics.
TV and movies can be very distracting, especially if they're loud or have a lot of action. It can be tempting to have the TV on in the background while studying, but it's best to avoid it if possible. If you do need some background noise, try calming and relaxing sounds instead.
Video games are often designed to be as stimulating as possible, making it difficult to focus on anything else. If you find concentrating without playing video games hard, it's best to avoid them altogether while studying. If others are playing in the background, find a new area to study.
Getting away from this noise can be difficult, especially if you live in a busy area. In these cases, it's best to try and find a quiet place to study, like a library or coffee shop. If that's not possible, try using headphones or earplugs to block the noise.
Whether it's friends, family, or strangers, chatty people can be very distracting when trying to study. If you can, find a place to study with fewer people around. Once again, headphones can help block out conversations.
Many different types of sounds can help you focus and improve your concentration. While some prefer silence, others find that certain sounds help them relax and focus on the task. Experiment with different types of sounds and see what works best for you. And if you're struggling to concentrate, try one of the Pzizz soundscapes that are scientifically designed to improve focus.
The best sounds to listen to when studying include classical music, white noise, and nature sounds.
You can make sure that the sounds you're listening to are helping you focus by paying attention to how your mind and body react to the sound. If you concentrate on the sound more than work, it's probably time to change what you're listening to and try something different.
Wearing headphones can help to block out background noise and create an atmosphere that is conducive to studying. However, if the sound you are listening to is too loud or distracting, it may be better to use speakers instead. Ultimately, it depends on your preferences and learning environment.