How to study in a noisy environment

As a student, finding a quiet space to study is important, as noise can have a detrimental impact on academic performance. This can sometimes prove to be a real challenge though, especially in the modern world we live in, where everyone is busy and there’s no shortage of distractions.

If noise is one of these distractions and it’s making it hard for you to focus and study, there are several strategies you can use to minimize noise and maximize your study time.

Try to eliminate the noise

This might sound obvious, and of course, it’s not always possible, but the best way to avoid noise while studying is to eliminate it.

You can eliminate noises that might disturb your studying by either eliminating the source of noise or relocating to a different room/location where that noise is significantly lower or does not exist at all.

Eliminate the source of noise

The first thing you should try is to eliminate the source noise. This might seem impossible, and sometimes it will be, but other times it might be easier than you think.

  • Ask nicely. If the noise that’s bothering you comes from a neighbor, try to talk to him/her. Don’t be mad at them, don’t go to their door yelling or demanding anything, simply explain the situation and ask them nicely to bring the noise down. Often people don’t realize how loud they are, but they are happy to bring the volume down if someone asks them nicely.
  • Announce your study hours to your friends and family. If the noise that’s bothering you comes from within your home, talk to your family or roommates and try to agree on certain quiet hours for you to study. The people you live with usually care about you, and they will be happy to make an effort if you let them know what you need.

Find a better place to study

If you can’t eliminate the noise, you can try finding a better place to study.

  • You can try to find a quieter room to study in your own home. They might not be the coziest, but sometimes basements or garages can be great places to find some quiet.
  • The library, of course, should be a safe bet. Libraries are not only noise-free environments but there’s also something about them that just invites you to study. Almost every school has a library, and if that doesn’t work for you, try the nearest public library, there are over 17 thousand of them in the US!
  • Another crazy idea from one of my former high school teachers. She swore she would go to the cemetery to grade exams, as nobody would bother her there. Maybe she just wanted to scare us, but I still wanted to put that idea on the table, just in case.


Terry Pratchett

One more thing, as tempting and cool as they might look, coffee shops aren’t usually great places to study. Even if you manage to find a quiet one, there will be so many other distractions.

Study at different hours

If you can’t eliminate the noise, and you can’t find a better place to study, you might still be able to get some quality study time if you change you are willing/able to change your schedule.

  • Your brother playing the drums might make it impossible for you to study, but if you know he has soccer practice Tuesdays and Thursdays from 5pm to 8pm, that’s 6 hours a week when you know for sure he won’t be playing.
  • Wake up earlier to find some study time before everyone else wakes up. Personally, I’ve used this technique for years and found that there are fewer noises in the early morning. This fosters concentration and focus, which, in turn, helps me absorb information more effectively.
  • I had a teacher once who explained he loved to read but his routine with his work, wife and kids didn’t allow him to, so he started setting the alarm at 3am and would read for an hour and then go back to sleep again. It is a bit extreme, but imagine the piece and quiet you’ll be able to enjoy at 3am!

Isolate yourself from the noise

I you can’t control the source of the noise and you can’t find a better place to study, bear with me, hope is not lost.

Studying in a noisy environment is far from ideal, but there are a few things you can do to make it better.

Block the noise

One option is to try and block the noise.

  • Consider using silicone earplugs to block out some environmental noise.
  • Use noise-canceling headphones, without music. Simply turn them on so that the active noise canceling can do its thing.

Cover the noise

The question of whether to listen to music while studying is a highly debated and nuanced topic, with varying perspectives among scholars and researchers. The literature on this issue is divided, with some studies suggesting that music can enhance cognitive performance, while others argue that it can be a significant distraction.

As such, the decision to listen to music while studying ultimately comes down to personal preference and individual circumstances. Some students may find that music helps them focus and reduces stress levels, while others may find it too distracting and prefer silence or ambient noise.

I run an experiment on myself to try to finger out whether white noise and ambient noise helped me perform certain tasks or not and found that in some cases it does help me. I also experimented with music. Actually, you can check out the playlist I listened to while writing this post on Spotify

It is worth noting that the type of music being listened to can also play a role in its impact on studying. For example, instrumental music or music with minimal lyrics may be less distracting than music with complex lyrics or a strong beat.

The playlist I mentioned earlier, for example, may not be the best one to listen to while studying, but it instead serves as an example to highlight the subjectivity of this particular phenomenon.

If you have them, use noise-canceling headphones or earbuds to listen to music while studying. Their active noise canceling technology will filter out a lot of the outside noise, allowing you to lower the volume of your music.


Noise can really ruin a study session, making it literally impossible for you to memorize or simply understand the concepts you are studying. What’s worse, many people might have trouble studying, but don’t realize noise is the issue.

The good news is that if you are reading this you are already aware noise is bothering you, and realizing what the problem is is the first step towards finding a solution to it. I hope you’ll be able to apply some of the ideas mentioned in this article to improve your studying environment and routine.

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Sheridan Walter is a medical doctor passionate about advancing the well-being of individuals and communities. With a master's degree in applied ethics, Sheridan enjoys exploring complex issues related to healthcare and social justice and is committed to engaging in critical dialogue to promote positive change.

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