Skip to Content

Is rain considered white noise?

White noise refers to a sound that contains many frequencies with equal intensity. It is used to mask other sounds and promote relaxation or sleep. So is the soothing patter of falling raindrops actually a form of white noise?

What is white noise?

White noise contains a random assortment of sound frequencies that give it a consistent, hissy quality. When all the audible frequencies (20 to 20,000 Hz in humans) are present at roughly the same intensity, the result is a sound similar to radio static or the air blowing through an air conditioner vent. This masks other sounds and helps block distractions.

Some key characteristics of white noise:

  • It has a flat power spectral density, meaning the strength of each frequency is equal.
  • It sounds like a rushing or hissing sound.
  • The volume remains consistent over time.
  • It can help cover up other sounds to aid focus or sleep.

White noise machines and sound generators are often used to create soothing ambient sound environments. The consistent audio stimulus they produce can help drown out distractions and unwanted noise.

What makes the sound of rain soothing?

The pitter-patter sound of falling raindrops has a calming, relaxing effect for many people. But does that mean it qualifies as true white noise?

Rain produces sounds of varying pitches as droplets hit surfaces of different sizes. It creates a layered ambient track that many find soothing. However, it does not contain a completely equal distribution of sound frequencies.

Here are some key qualities of the sound of rain:

  • It has a wide range of frequencies, but they are not necessarily equal in strength.
  • It creates a enveloping atmosphere with calming background sounds.
  • The volume and tempo varies slightly over time.
  • It masks other sounds like voices, traffic, etc.

So while not a true white noise, the complex audio texture of rain provides many of the same benefits:

  • Masking distracting sounds
  • Promoting relaxation
  • Helping people focus
  • Inducing sleep

How does rain create its distinctive sound?

The sound of rainfall depends on variables like wind speed, drop size, intensity, and the textures of the surfaces raindrops hit. Here are some of the mechanisms that produce the soothing pitter-patter:

  • Drops hitting hard surfaces like concrete, metal, or glass create higher-pitched “plink” sounds.
  • Drops splashing into puddles or bodies of water make lower-pitched “plopping” sounds.
  • The size and speed of drops affects pitch – large fast drops make lower notes.
  • Wind causes droplets to strike at an angle, changing the sound.
  • The drumming of rain on different surfaces layers together into a complex texture.

These variables mean rain consists of a range of frequencies. However, there is not necessarily an equal distribution and consistent volume level that defines white noise. The tempo and intensity also shifts, unlike artificially generated static sounds.

How does the sound of rain affect the brain?

Research shows that listening to nature sounds like rain has measurable effects on brain activity:

  • Slows down brain wave patterns to induce relaxation
  • Lowers fight-or-flight nervous system activity
  • Releases calming serotonin in the brain
  • Blocks distracting and stress-inducing noise
  • Provides a soothing auditory backdrop for concentration or sleep

The wide range of frequencies in rainfall creates an immersive surround sound effect. This masks harsh or irritating noises that can disrupt focus. The result is an improved sense of auditory comfort and relaxation.

How does rain noise compare to white noise machines?

Purpose-built white noise devices produce a more accurate representation of a true full-frequency sound. But many people find the sound of rain just as effective, if not more natural sounding. Here is a comparison:

Rain Sounds White Noise Machines
– Complex, layered texture – Static, consistent hiss
– Varying intensities and pitches – Equal intensity at all frequencies
– Mimics soothing natural ambience – Synthetic sound quality
– Fluctuates subtly over time – Steady, unchanging volume

The additional acoustic intricacy of rain may explain why many people find it more relaxing than blank white noise. But for those seeking a more even sound distribution, white noise machines deliver.


The patter of falling rain contains a wide spectrum of frequencies that mask other noises. This creates a soothing, immersive sound environment. However, rain’s pitches and volumes vary over time rather than remaining perfectly steady. So technically rain is not a true white noise.

Yet while it may lack the strict technical characteristics, rainfall can deliver many of the same benefits as white noise. The hypnotic pitter-patter promotes relaxation, improves concentration, and lulls people to sleep. So even though the sound of rain does not fit the scientific definition, its effects on the brain make it function like soothing white noise.