Parents of infants are often willing to do anything to get their child to sleep. There are hundreds of "sleep training" books and methods, soothing lotions with lavender, and swaddle blankets that all claim to help a baby sleep.
Another thing that is often recommended is an white noise machine. These machines are supposed to provide soothing sounds to help babies get to sleep faster and sleep longer even if the rest of the house is not totally quiet.
But a new study has found that those white noise machines that are supposed to help babies may be hurting them.
Infant sleep machines are designed to produce white noise to create an environment better designed for sleep by eliminating acoustic interruptions. Many parenting experts recommend the use of sleep machines to help infants fall asleep, as well as to mask the environmental sounds that could disturb an infant during their sleep cycle with the machine's louder, more consistent sounds.
Getting a good night's sleep is important for infants (and their parents) but not at the risk of hearing loss.
Researchers at the University of Toronto and The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, Ontario, Canada found that the volume of these sleep machines can actually be damaging to a baby's hearing. The sound levels according to their research may be set too high for infants.
This study was published in the January 2014 issue of Pediatrics, the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
The researchers working on this study examined 14 commercially available infant white noise sleep machines played at maximum volume. They measured the audio output of the machines at a variety of distances to simulate the distance there would likely be between the machine and the baby.
This may be surprising to many parents, but the researchers found that if the machines are attached to the crib or placed next the the crib on a table, all 14 machines would exceed the recommended sound levels for hospital nurseries. Three of them would even exceed occupational sound limits for adults!
After all the research had been done, researchers found that these commercial sleep machines may be placing babies at risk for abnormal development of their auditory systems, or for noise-induced hearing loss.
Researchers advise parents who want to use these white noise machines to keep them at the lowest volume possible. They also suggest that the machines be kept as far away from the child as possible and that the machine be turned off after the child has fallen asleep.
Pediatrics.aapublications.org. Web. Published 25 February 2014. "Infant Sleep Machines and Hazardous Sound Pressure Levels".
Jwatch.org. Web. Published 4 March 2014. "Parents turn down those white noise machines."
Reviewed March 13, 2014
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith