Is your white noise machine damaging your baby’s hearing?


By Good Night Consultant

A new study in Pediatrics suggests that some noise machines can produce sounds so loud that they could potentially damage infants’ hearing and auditory development.

If SIDS isn’t scary enough! Now we are potentially damaging our children by playing them white noise?

As with all things baby, we thoroughly believe that white noise should be approached with a balanced view.

The study states that loud noise (85dB)…like putting a hair drier or blasting music 12″ from a baby’s head for 8 hours straight…is potentially damaging to a baby’s hearing. Unfortunately, this article is being used to scare parents and ignores the key benefits of using white noise.

When you work on changing your baby’s sleep habits, start where you want to end. In affect this means don’t automatically include white noise in your sleep regime if you don’t have any reason to other than “everybody’s doing it”.

Tired parents always need to be reminded of the safe way to do things. Swaddling is great, but you don’t want to overheat a baby or restrict the hips or do it past 8 weeks…car seats are great, but they can actually cause infant deaths if not properly installed. And similar caveats are true for white noise.

Surprisingly, babies cry usually reach levels up to 100 dB (as loud as a power lawnmower…and 10 times louder than a hair drier ). Loud sounds, like vacuum cleaner and hair drier sounds, have been recommended by pediatricians and parenting books for decades to calm fussy babies. But, it is very important to remind parents to only use very loud noise during infant crying.

However, the new study just released by the journal Pediatrics omitted 3 critical points as Doctor Karb points out:

1) In the womb, all babies are exposed to the sound of whooshing through the arteries…that is louder than a vacuum cleaner (measured at 75-92dB)…24/7.

2) Moderate sound – used all night – is perfectly safe and has been shown to be helpful in boosting sleep, which is why so many families use white noise CDs and downloads.

3) Noise injury is primarily related to the high pitch of sound. A pitch, which with most infant white noise machines are not reached.

When considering recommending white noise for babies, it is extremely important to consider the potential life saving benefits of proper sleep, which in return means the benefits of using white noise machines correctly.

Poor infant sleep causes parent exhaustion..and that leads to many very dangerous situations…including postpartum depression, maternal obesity, child abuse and sleep deaths because the exhausted parents put the baby on the stomach or bring the baby into their bed…which causes ~1000 accidental suffocation deaths/year. By enhancing sleep (and reducing crying) low pitched, rumbly white noise may help prevent these very serious problems. So once again we have to weigh our two options up against each other.

So when a baby cries, increase sound level – for a few minutes – to the level of a vacuum cleaner. And, for safe naps and all night sleeping keep the sound about the level of a soft shower IF your baby needs it. (I encourage you to place the sound within a few feet of the baby’s sleep area…and to listen to the sound themselves…to judge whether it is too loud.)

I want to reiterate again that white noise should only be used in the case where it is needed. You don’t have to start off with a white noise machine just because your friend uses one with her baby. White noise in itself will never teach your baby to sleep