Top three ambient apps to improve focus and help you work

This blog has been updated! Originally published 13/06/2019. Amended 07/09/2023

Apps that deliver low-level ambient or ‘white noise’ can increase creativity, focus, and productivity, according to a study by the Journal of Consumer Research. These apps can combat digital distractions, such as that compulsion to check your smartphone, which we each do on average every 12 minutes, according to Ofcom.

They’re especially helpful for those that have tinnitus, as well as those with Autism and ADHD, who find it difficult to cut out background noise. Whilst this may seem counter-intuitive, the right ambient noise can be used to mask more disruptive general, or constant noise. Bill, who has ADHD, writes in Attitude magazine that “by having something to tune out, I can tune in better to what I am reading or writing.”

From powering through deadlines, to job applications or down time with a good book, we’ve pulled together our favourite apps for helping you focus on what’s important to you:

CoffitivityiPhone showing Coffitivity in use on screen

A love of cool coffee shops is considered a trend in millennial culture, but it turns out there might actually be a scientific reason young heads ducked behind laptops are often found in cafés, beyond a needed caffeine fix. Coffitivity, a free multiplatform app which plays an ambient coffee shop soundtrack, is based on research showing that the familiar buzz of baristas and clatter of coffee mugs distracts you just the right amount “to help you think outside the box.”

To help get those creative juices flowing Coffitivity has a variety of ambient soundtracks to simulate your preferred café environment. These range from Morning Murmur for a “gentle hum that gets the day going” and University Undertones for “the scholarly sounds of a campus café”. We especially enjoy the concept because it brings the benefits of a popular public hub to students who may not have physical access to a coffee shop for many reasons, including health, money or social anxiety. 

Study AmbienceiPhone showing Study Ambience app in use on screen

Study Ambience is perfect for students who prefer relaxing, meditative sounds for focusing the mind. The app is designed to ground its users, categorising its ambiances by the elements Forest, Water, Fire and Rain. The variety of earthy ambiences include cosy crackling fires, lapping waves and quiet breezy night skies.

Used for sleep as well as studying, the calming, soft sounds are designed to reduce stress and enable the over-active student mind to block out external distractions. The interface is striking yet simple, with eye-catching designs accompanying the ambiences to complete the immersive experience. There is also an offline mode for when you need to zone out when you’re on the move. 

NoisiliNoisili app shown on iPhone and Android phone

We recommend Noisili for students who have perhaps struggled to find the perfect productivity app in the past, and require very specific sounds to keep them focused. Free on the web and available to purchase on iOS and android, Noisili enables you to customise your perfect environment by mixing together different earthly sounds, ranging from rain, a train, to a fan and breezy leaves. If you want to get really creative you can start from scratch, mixing white, pink and brown noise too - mix the high and low pitches together to find a completely original frequency for you.

The Noisili interface simulates a simple mix-desk with an array of icons representing different sounds for you to choose from. To select a sound simply click on the icon, and to alter its prominence use the volume bar below it. We love how user-friendly this app is, giving you the option to save and easily access your favourite sound combinations and providing a motivating timer for productivity sessions.  

How My Computer My Way helps disabled people

Visit My Computer My Way to find more information about how to make your device easier to use, and work harder for you.

Learn how to adapt your phone, computer or tablet to meet your needs. You can search on the site for a specific need (e.g. making text larger) or filter the guides based on your symptoms (e.g. hand tremor) or condition (e.g. dyslexia). My Computer My Way can also provide guides on how to use background sounds to help you focus on your specific device. 

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