White noise could be damaging your brain: study

As I was reading articles about how white noise can cause auditory hallucinations, I came across a piece in Science Alert about a study that suggests white noise could harm your brain.

According to researchers from the University of California, San Francisco, prolonged exposure to white noise could induce "maladaptive plastic reorganization" in the central auditory system. As the study author Mouna Attarha explains:

"In the past 50 years, brain scientists have learned a great deal about brain plasticity — how sensory and other inputs change the brain chemically, structurally, and functionally. Increasing evidence shows that the brain rewires in a negative manner when it is fed random information, such as white noise.

The researchers cite animal studies where non-traumatic noise levels between 60-70 decibels—typical of commercial noise generators—led to reduced neural inhibition, slower processing of changing signals, and less precise cortical representations in the auditory system.

The article, which was published in 2018, says, "It's far too early to conclude that the unstructured sound of white noise – a random combination of different frequencies – is having the same effects on people." For now, I will continue using my white noise machine, albeit less frequently.