Are you damaging your baby’s hearing?

Parents will do anything to get their baby to sleep. If it isn’t rocking in your arms, bouncing on a fit-ball, or driving around the suburbs, it might be using a white noise, or sound machine to help your baby sleep soundly. Well, a study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that “noise machines” may harm an infant’s hearing.

Researchers looked at 14 popular machines that played white noise and other soothing sounds and positioned them in varying distances from the cot. Three of the machines, if played at top volume throughout the night, would exceed acceptable noise limits for adults at work. And not only can  hearing be affected by the loudness and proximity of the machine but also auditory development may be at risk. With outside noises being constantly drowned out, children may not be learning about sounds in their environment during the early stages of brain development. The long-term effects of constantly masking environmental noise at such an early age remains unknown.

Importantly babies were not actually exposed to these kinds of sounds in order to conduct this study. Researchers are just informing us of what could happen if these machines are used for long periods, too close to your baby.

As well as recommending that manufacturers limit the sound levels on devices and ensure each has a timer, the study made the following recommendations for parents:

  1. Place the noise machine as far as possible away from the child and never in the cot or on the rail of the cot.
  2. Only play the noise machine at low volume.
  3. Only play the noise machine for a limited time each night.
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