Ask the Experts

9 Tips for Blocking Out Noise

“No matter where you go in our house, there is some type of noise that makes it difficult to think and study. Are there any coping techniques or tools (like technology) we can use for blocking out noise so we can concentrate on what we’d like to concentrate on instead of focusing on external distractions?”

A woman uses music as a fidget to improve her focus and help her study.
A woman uses music as a fidget to improve her focus and help her study.

Blocking out noise can be a challenge for adults and children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD or ADD) — and those without the condition. To answer your question directly, there are several tools you can use to help you focus and avoid external distractions:

  • Use white noise, such as a fan or vacuum cleaner.
  • Play background music that helps you focus rather than the kind that demands your attention (one of my clients has a playlist he refers to as his “auditory Adderall“).
  • Listen to nature sounds, either on a recording or via a smartphone app (just search for “nature sounds” and see what you can find).
  • Create sound barriers, such as adding extra insulation in your walls or stuffing towels under your door.
  • Wear earplugs or noise-canceling headphones.

The better solution may be to negotiate some peace and quiet.

You have two choices here: reduce the noise in your home or find another place to think and study. I know, I know — you think it can’t be done! But maybe it can:

  • Tell your family (or roommates) that you need some quiet time and ask them for ideas for how you can get it. Let them know how important it is to you. Perhaps you can get a commitment from them to keep it down during your designated study period. You might even designate consequences for violating the agreement.

[Free Download: Music for Healthy ADHD Brains]

  • Coordinate schedules so everyone in the home has quiet time together. Perhaps you can designate an hour where the kids are reading or playing a strategy game, your spouse is working in the yard, and you are doing your focus work. You’ll need to schedule this in advance — the chances of this happening spontaneously are as remote as the national debt disappearing in our lifetime.

If you absolutely cannot get quiet time in your house, libraries are usually noise-free safe havens. Or perhaps the office after hours or a quiet cafe. Here again the key is scheduling — go when it’s least likely to be crowded. Worried about travel time? The time you spend traveling back and forth may be less than the time you waste being distracted.

Another approach is to increase your ability to focus.

Improve your daily lifestyle habits. Sleep, diet, exercise, and hydration are the keys here. Dehydration, sleep deprivation, and junk food all drastically reduce your ability to concentrate. Eating healthy foods, getting enough rest, and drinking plenty of water, on the other hand, keep your brain working at top efficiency and make those distractions easier to ignore. Ditto for exercise, which boosts the level of neurotransmitters in the brain and helps you focus better.

So while insulating your ears does work, it’s not the only way to solve the problem. See if any of these other strategies can work for you.

[Free Resource:6 Ways to Retain Focus (When Your Brain Says ‘No!’)]