White Noise Makers Help Babies Sleep, But May Damage Their Hearing
March 3, 2014

White Noise Makers Help Babies Sleep, But May Damage Their Hearing

Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

Putting your baby to sleep by using a sleep machine could be harming your child, according to a new study published in the journal Pediatrics.

Researchers at the Hospital for Sick Children in Canada tested how sleep machines are affecting children. Parents use sleep machines, or white-noise makers, to help a sleeping baby fall asleep, as well as drown out outside noises like a fire truck or ambulance. However, the team found that if these machines are kept at full volume they could be hazardous to the infant’s hearing.

“We suggest that the consistent use of these devices raises concerns for increasing an infant’s risk of noise-induced hearing loss,” the authors wrote in the journal.

The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety and US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommend adults limit workplace sound exposure to no more than 85 A-weighted decibels for eight hours, which is about the same as a garbage disposal or blender. However, scientists recommend that children in hospitals be exposed to no more than 50 decibels over an hour, which is about the same noise level as a running dishwasher.

Researchers recorded the sound levels of 14 infant sleep machines at maximum volumes measured at varying distances from the machine. The team found that while most machines had less than 50 decibels of noise at about a foot, three of them produced output levels around 85 decibels when at maximum volume.

According to the scientists, if these machines producing 85 decibels are being played for less than eight hours, it exceeds occupational limits for accumulated noise exposure in adults and risks noise-induced hearing loss.

The team said these machines “are capable of producing output sound pressure levels that may be damaging to infant hearing and auditory development. We outline recommendations for safer operation of these machines.”

They recommend manufacturers be required to make their devices with a limited maximum output, as well as print warnings on the machines about noise-induced hearing loss. The researchers also recommend infant noise manufacturers include mandatory timers on devices that automatically shut the machines off after a predetermined period of time.

For parents, the researchers say they should be placing the machines as far away from their child as possible and never in the crib or on the crib rail. They also say parents should place the machines at a low volume, and only operate it for a short duration of time.