Some of you may remember research in the past that showed that individuals with dyslexia have more difficulty screening out background noise (discussed in the news HERE). Students or adults with this difficulty can usually request quiet area for work or test-taking under the ADA or Americans for Disabilities Act.
Now another research group has tested the effect of “white noise” on reading skills and memory recall in children with a reading disability.
From the paper:
“The study was conducted with a group of 30 children with RD and phonological decoding difficulties and two comparison groups: one consisting of skilled readers (n = 22) and another of children with mild orthographic reading problems and age adequate phonological decoding (n = 30). White noise was presented experimentally in visual and auditory modalities, while the children performed tests of single word reading, orthographic word recognition, nonword reading, and memory recall. Results For the first time, we show that visual and auditory white noise exposure improves some reading and memory capacities “on the fly” in children with RD and phonological decoding difficulties. By contrast, the comparison groups displayed either no benefit or a gradual decrease in performance with increasing noise. In interviews, we also found that the white noise exposure was tolerable or even preferred by many children. Conclusion: These novel findings suggest that poor readers with phonological decoding difficulties may be immediately helped by white noise during reading.”
The paper is also helpful for its concise summary of past literature regarding background noise. It mentions, for instance, that unpredictable and uncontrollable sounds are distracting for everyone, as might be expected, and research has confirmed that large noisy classes reduce school task performance. However, white noise is a very different kind of background noise. It is predictable and regular – like a fan blowing or repeating loop of rain falling. In fact, this research group found in a previous paper that white noise had an even more beneficial effect on the cognitive performance of children with ADHD than stimulants (Soderlund et al., 2016).
There are various white noise machines available from sites like Amazon. You or your student may find that a regular fan is sufficient for background noise and work at home. There can be a great deal of individual differences in terms of which kinds of background noise is preferred.
When we tested students in our clinic, we sometimes noticed if students were distractable to outside noises. Even when it’s pretty quiet – a sound that happens unpredictable can disrupt a chain of thought.
The app we used in the clinic (and on family vacations with thin hotel walls) is this free one, White Noise Lite (iOS)
Other white noise apps to check out are Rain Rain Sleep Sounds (iOS) or White Noise Lite in the Google Play store