Skip to content

How To Use Background Sounds and White Noise on Your iPhone or iPad

Have you ever felt too distracted to focus, or struggled to fall asleep in a noisy environment? If so, you‘re not alone. Background sounds and white noise have become increasingly popular solutions for improving concentration, sleep quality, and overall mental health. In this comprehensive guide, we‘ll explore the science behind background sounds, how to set them up on your iPhone or iPad, and tips for using them effectively.

What Are Background Sounds and How Do They Work?

Background sounds, also known as white noise, refer to gentle, unobtrusive sounds that mask disruptive noises and provide a calming ambience. Examples include the hum of a fan, ocean waves, soft static, or light rainfall. These sounds create a effect called sound masking.

As audiology researcher Dr. Jordan explains, "Sound masking works by adding a soft ‘background noise‘ which helps cover up intermittent sounds that can distract or disrupt focus and concentration. The gentle, neutral sounds reduce the difference between the loudest and quietest noises in an environment, which blurs distracting sounds together into an unnoticeable hum."

Research has shown sound masking to be effective for:

  • Boosting focus and productivity
  • Improving sleep quality
  • Reducing symptoms of ADHD
  • Providing soothing sensory stimuli for children with autism or sensory processing issues

Background noise may also benefit mental health by lowering stress and anxiety levels.

Now that we‘ve covered the benefits, let‘s look at how you can access background sounds right from your iPhone or iPad.

Step-by-Step: How To Set Up Background Sounds on Your iOS Device

Apple provides a library of high quality background sounds you can use for free on any iPhone or iPad running iOS 15 or later (iPadOS 15 or later for iPads).

Here‘s how to set it up:

  1. Open the Settings app.
  2. Tap Accessibility.
  3. Choose Audio/Visual from the options.
  4. Select Background Sounds.
  5. Toggle on Background Sounds to enable it.

You‘ll then be able to choose from six background sound options:

  • Bright Noise – A brighter, crisper white noise
  • Dark Noise – A deeper, more rumbly white noise
  • Ocean – The sound of gentle ocean waves
  • Rain – Soft, steady rainfall
  • Stream – A babbling brook
  • Balanced Noise – An evenly blended white noise

You can also opt to allow background sounds to mix with any media or music you‘re listening to. Try enabling it to find your preferred setting.

For easy access, it‘s convenient to add a Background Sounds shortcut to the Control Center on your iPhone or iPad. Here‘s how:

  1. Go to Settings.
  2. Tap Control Center.
  3. Choose More Controls.
  4. Under Hearing, tap the + icon next to Background Sounds.

Now you‘ll have a quick shortcut to turn background sounds on or off whenever you want!

How To Use Background Sounds Effectively

Once you‘ve set up background sounds on your iPhone or iPad, here are some tips for using them effectively:

  • Experiment with different sounds to see which helps you focus best or sleep more soundly. Many people find rain noises relaxing for sleep and bright or dark white noise ideal for concentration.

  • Consider using a timer (like the one built into Clock app) to shut off background sounds after a set period so they don‘t play all night long.

-moderate volume levels recommended around 50 decibels or lower. Too loud can damage hearing over time or disrupt sleep.

  • Take occasional breaks from background noise to avoid habituation. Your brain will get used to always hearing the sounds.

  • Complement built-in sounds with white noise machines, apps like Noisli, or ambient music. More variety can help prevent habituation.

  • Avoid excessive use at high volumes, which could potentially impact hearing health over time, according to audiologists.

  • Seek medical help if sound masking provides only temporary relief for underlying issues like insomnia, ADHD or anxiety. Don‘t use as substitute for professional treatment.


Listening to soothing background sounds can work wonders for improving concentration, sleep disturbances, and feelings of stress. With iOS 15 or later, iPhone and iPad users can easily access high quality sound masking options right from their device settings for free. Take advantage of this built-in tool by customizing Control Center, experimenting with different sounds, using moderate volumes, and taking occasional breaks. Discover how integrating background sounds into your daily routine can boost mental health and performance.