Sound machines are often used to calm infants and promote sleep. A new study conducted by researchers at the University of Toronto has raised questions about the regular use of infant sound machines, specifically that they may increase the risk of hearing loss. Amanda Hudye, Certified Sleep Consultant, founder and president of Sleepwell Baby, a Saskatoon based Sleep Consulting Company, recommends parents interpret the study’s findings with caution. Hudye states, “White noise and infant sound machines can be very helpful so long as parents use them with a few guidelines in mind.”
The study published in the Pediatrics journal claims that infant sound machines producing sounds exceeding the safety levels for babies can cause hearing damage. The study focused on 14 infant sound machines used in Canada and the United States. The machines were played at maximum volume and the output was measured at 30, 100, and 200 cm from the machine. The distances were meant to simulate the machine being placed on the crib rail, bedside table and across the room.
Hudye recommends parents consider the following when using an infant sound machine:
- When white noise is used to mask the sounds of a busy household a baby will sleep more soundly. For this reason, white noise can be a useful naptime tool.
- Babies with colic or extreme fussiness are often comforted by white noise. Its calming effect on infants is due to their familiarity with this sound from the prenatal period.
- Common sense must be used with any product designed for use with babies. Parents should place the sound machine away from the baby’s crib and keep the volume on a low level.
- While a sound machine is a useful tool it should not be the only one in your toolbox. Healthy sleep can be promoted by making the room as dark and quiet as possible, following consistent bedtime routines and putting babies to bed at the age appropriate times.