Listening to music can have a range of effects on your health. Maybe it boosts your mood when you’re feeling down or energizes you during a workout.

For some, listening to music also helps with maintaining focus. This has led some to wonder whether music can help people who have ADHD, which can cause difficulties with concentration and focus.

Turns out, they may be on to something.

A 2011 study looking at 41 boys with ADHD found evidence to suggest classroom performance improved for some boys when they listened to music while they worked. Still, music seemed to be distracting for some of the boys.

Experts still recommend that people with ADHD try to avoid as many distractions as possible, but it appears that some people with ADHD may benefit from listening to certain music or sounds.

Read on to learn how to use music for boosting your focus and concentration.

Just make sure to keep up with any prescribed treatments unless your healthcare provider suggests otherwise.

“What to listen to”

Music relies on structure and the use of rhythm and timing. Since ADHD often involves difficulty with tracking timing and duration, listening to music might help improve performance in these areas.

Listening to music you enjoy can also increase dopamine, a neurotransmitter. Certain ADHD symptoms may be linked to lower dopamine levels.

When it comes to music for ADHD symptoms, some types of music may be more helpful for promoting concentration. Aim for calm, medium-tempo music with easy-to-follow rhythms.

  • Vivaldi
  • Bach
  • Handel
  • Mozart

You can look for mixes or playlists online, like this one, which gives you just over an hour’s worth of classical music:

“White noise may also help”

White noise refers to steady background noise. Think of the sound produced by a loud fan or a piece of machinery.

While loud or sudden sounds can disrupt concentration, ongoing quiet sounds may have the opposite effect for some people with ADHD.

A 2007 study looked at cognitive performance in children with and without ADHD. According to the results, children with ADHD performed better on memory and verbal tasks while listening to white noise. Those without ADHD didn’t perform as well when listening to white noise.

A more recent study from 2016 compared the benefits of white noise with stimulant medication for ADHD. The participants, a group of 40 children, listened to white noise rated at 80 decibels. That’s roughly the same noise level as typical city traffic.

Listening to white noise seemed to improve memory task performance in children with ADHD who were taking stimulant medication as well as those who weren’t.

While this was a pilot study, not a randomized control trial study (which are more reliable), the results suggest that using white noise as a treatment for certain ADHD symptoms either on its own or with medication may be a promising area for further research.

If you have trouble concentrating in complete silence, try turning on a fan or using a white noise machine. You can also try using a free white noise app, like A Soft Murmur.

“Same with binaural beats”

Binaural beats are a type of auditory beat stimulation believed by some to have many potential benefits, including improved concentration and increased calm.

A binaural beat happens when you listen to a sound at a certain frequency with one ear and a sound at a different but similar frequency with your other ear. Your brain produces a sound with the frequency of the difference between the two tones.

A very small 2010 pilot study of 20 children with ADHD did yield some promising results. The study looked at whether listening to audio with binaural beats a few times per week could help reduce inattention compared to audio without binaural beats.

While the results suggest that binaural beats didn’t have a big impact on inattention, participants in both groups reported having fewer difficulties completing their homework due to inattention during the three weeks of the study.

Research on binaural beats, particularly on their use to improve symptoms of ADHD, is limited. But many people with ADHD have reported increased concentration and focus when listening to binaural beats. They may be worth trying if you’re interested.

You can find free recordings of binaural beats, like the one below, online.

CAUTION: Talk to your healthcare provider before listening to binaural beats if you experience seizures or have a pacemaker.

“What you shouldn’t listen to”

While listening to certain music and sounds might help with concentration for some people, other types can have the opposite effect.

If you’re trying to improve your focus while studying or working on a task, you may have better results if you avoid the following:

  • music without a clear rhythm
  • music that’s abrupt, loud, or heavy
  • extremely fast-paced music, such as dance or club music
  • songs you really like or really hate (thinking about how much you love or hate a song can disrupt your concentration)
  • songs with lyrics, which can be distracting for your brain (if you prefer music with vocals, try listening to something that’s sung in a foreign language)

If possible, try to avoid streaming services or radio stations that have frequent commercials.

If you don’t have access to any commercial-free streaming stations, you can try your local library. Many libraries have large collections of classical and instrumental music on CD you can check out.

Keeping expectations realistic

Generally, people with ADHD have an easier time focusing when they aren’t surrounded by any distractions, including music.

In addition, a 2014 meta-analysis of existing studies about the impact of music on ADHD symptoms concluded that music appears to be only minimally beneficial.

If listening to music or other noise seems to only cause more distraction for you, you might find it more beneficial to invest in some good earplugs.

In conclusion

Music may have benefits beyond personal enjoyment, including increased focus and concentration for some people with ADHD.

There isn’t a ton of research on the topic just yet, but it’s an easy, free technique you can try out the next time you need to get through some work.

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