Headphones Help Improve Focus for Those with ADHD

Headphones Help Improve Focus for Those with ADHD
24.01.2024
  • Some people with ADHD have difficulty focusing in noisy environments because background noises can be distracting for them.
  • Noise-canceling headphones may block out these sounds and help them stay focused.
  • Experts also recommend people with ADHD practice mindfulness, try the Pomodoro technique, and work with their employers to minimize distractions in the workplace.

Noise-canceling headphones may be beneficial to some people with ADHD, experts say.

Many people with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) have difficulty concentrating in distracting environments, such as shared office spaces.

Distractions can come in many forms, such as the sound of a phone ringing, coworkers making small talk, or even the noises of a person making coffee nearby.

“Many individuals with ADHD have a hard time filtering out extraneous sounds,” Justin Puder, PhD, a psychologist based in Boca Raton, Florida.

“Someone without ADHD might not even [notice] a little background sound—like the printer going off—but an individual with ADHD might focus in on it,” he explained. “So in environments with different noises that pop up and disappear, it can be difficult to stay focused.”

For this reason, it may be useful for people with ADHD to try using noise-canceling headphones at work, or in other spaces where they’re trying to focus.

Though ADHD varies from person to person, being easily distracted by noises could be a part of a person’s symptom profile, Kendra Mathys, PsyD, a psychologist at Cleveland Clinic.

“If external noises are a distraction, being able to minimize that with noise-canceling headphones could be helpful,” she said.

Here’s why people with ADHD may find themselves easily distracted, how headphones can help, and other techniques that may make it easier to stay on task in noisy spaces.

ALSO READ  24 Activities for Children with ADHD to Help Build Skills

ADHD Can Make Noise Extra Distracting

ADHD can cause people to experience lower levels of dopamine, a chemical that helps people pay attention.2

As a result, people with the condition may have difficulty with the following:

National Institute of Mental Health. Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder.

  • Staying focused during conversations or lectures
  • Staying focused while reading something lengthy
  • Finishing chores, schoolwork, or workplace tasks
  • Following instructions
  • Staying organized
  • Managing time and meeting deadlines

Some people who have ADHD find it difficult to avoid noises, even if they’re inconsequential to most other people.

“For those individuals, concentration is getting broken more easily, and remembering what they were doing before getting distracted can be really hard,” Mathys said.

How Can Headphones Help People With ADHD?

According to Mathys, people with ADHD often have to develop strategies that will help them stay focused in the workplace.

“It can feel like trial and error, and [it can take some time to] learn what works for them depending on the specific situations they’re in,” she said.

Many patients need help learning to minimize the distractions within their control, Mathys explained.

“That’s where the headphones could come into play,” she said.

Headphones with noise-cancellation technology could help block out everyday sounds—such as that of a car passing by—that make it easy for people with ADHD to lose focus.

But headphones don’t necessarily have to be noise-canceling to help people with ADHD—some may benefit from using regular headphones and playing specific music or other sounds they’re familiar with, Puder clarified.

“It’s about predictability for a lot of people with ADHD, and they might do fine playing their music, while [other sounds like] the front door opening and closing all day are jarring,” he explained.

ALSO READ  Energy Drinks Tied to ADHD, Anxiety and Depression, in Kids and Young Adults

If familiar music doesn’t work, some people might find success playing a white noise track they like, Mathys added.

Other Techniques For Improving Focus With ADHD

Among people with ADHD, there’s no one-size-fits-all practice or treatment that helps everyone with the condition stay focused.

Most people can benefit from speaking with a mental health professional who can help them create an individualized plan for staying on task at work, Mathys said.

She added that mindfulness practices can also be helpful.

“One of the things I often recommend is mindfulness because it helps strengthen the mental muscle that notices when we get distracted,” she explained.

Mathys also recommends a practice called the Pomodoro technique, in which people focus on a given task for 25 minutes, take a five-minute break, repeat this process four times, and then take a longer break of 15 to 30 minutes.4

“How this is helpful is that it’s more approachable to be intentional with tasks and focus for that 25-minute chunk of time than it would be to sit down and focus for a few hours,” she explained.

However, Puder noted that some individuals with ADHD do find it easier to stay tuned in to one specific task for a longer period.

“Many of my neurodivergent clients say they do far better when they’re locked in for two or three hours at a time,” he said.

He explained that some people with ADHD find it difficult to start working again once they’ve stopped, which is why many see success when they try staying focused as long as possible without taking breaks.

ALSO READ  ADHD Medication Linked to Lower Risk of Premature Death

Ultimately, people with ADHD will likely need to experiment to determine which practices and routines work best for them.

If you’ve been diagnosed with ADHD by a licensed provider, your place of work may be legally obligated to provide accommodations that are easier to work in.

“For many people with ADHD, it’s easy for their employer to give them a private space, a place where the door is not slamming,” Puder explained. “There’s been a lot of cases for my clients [in which] once they had the formal diagnosis, their employer granted accommodations.”

These can include providing a quieter workspace in the office or allowing the employee to work from home.

While it’s important for people with ADHD to try different ways to maximize concentration at work, Puder noted that it’s just as important for managers and team leaders to help their employees when possible.

“The message to people in management should be: There’s always going to be individual differences in how people work,” he said, “and if you want to have a diverse work environment, you’re going to have to embrace [those] differences.”

Latest

Most read