White Noise For Your Baby: Yes or No?

– Written by JoAnna Inks 

Newborn baby sleeping on a blanket. Age 1 week

I don’t think I’m the only one that feels a bit like a coward since having children.

There’s a part of me that’s been terrified since the day they were born. I always thought of myself as a pretty brave person, but it’s one thing to be fearless when it’s only your own well-being you have to think about. 

BUT, it can be absolutely paralyzing once you have children that something is going to happen to THEM!

Recently, I saw some buzz online about an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association about the harmful effects of white noise, and it made my heart sink.

I used white noise with my own children, and I’ve recommended it to countless clients over the years- especially when there’s environmental noise waking their children while they’re napping or early in the morning.

I was freaked out!  The Journal of the American Medical Association is a reputable news source.  

However, as is often the case, the headlines I was reading were misleading and meant to scare parents into clicking on them.

After reading the “Please Don’t Throw Out Your White Noise Machine.”

and the study it was based on, I sure felt a lot better about this white noise business!

I don’t claim to have a degree in audiology, and I’m not speaking from that angle.

I can, however, debunk a news story when it’s meant to put fear into parents and comes from an irresponsible media channel.  You know the articles, they start out with a horrendous headline about ALL of the harm you’re causing your child and end with a quiet one-liner that looks something like this, “Most experts agree that if you have ANY common sense, then this isn’t something you need to worry about.”  

That certainly seems to be the case here.

So here are the details of the story that’s causing so many parents to throw their perfectly good Dohm sound machines into the garbage.

In USA Today the article starts off with the headline “Caution Urged for Infant Sleep Machines!” in the second sentence there’s a claim about a new study that, “could place infants at risk of developing noise-induced hearing loss.” 

This particular study tested 14 different sound machines and their volume of noise at varying distances from a sound meter.  This was to mimic where a sound machine may be located in a baby’s room.

The results? 

All of the 14 machines exceeded the recommended noise limit for hospital nurseries, which is 50 decibels, at 100 centimeters.

Gasp! All of them? 

Therefore, there’s not a machine on the market that won’t damage your baby’s hearing? That’s precisely the impression you would get from reading this article, but hold on!  How loud are 50 decibels? 

50 decibels is the same volume as a quiet conversation or a quiet suburb, according to a handy cheat sheet I found from Purdue University.  The reason a hospital nursery noise limit is 50 decibels is to create a sleep-friendly environment, not prevent hearing loss.

50 decibels is NOT loud enough to do any kind of hearing damage.  There were 3 of these machines that put out 85 decibels which is more like a blender or garbage disposal, and that’s also the point where the North American Occupational Health and Safety Association recommends that a person should wear ear protection if they’re going to be exposed to this level for a full workday.

There’s definitely potential for hearing loss if you take one of these three machines and put it on full blast right next to your baby’s crib – this is worth letting parents know about.

I have two thoughts……

1.  If you turn on garbage disposal level noise in your baby’s room and expect them to sleep – I can assure you, they will not.  A bit of common sense here will go a long way!

2.  Warning parents about the harmful effects of a white noise machine should be done in a non-panic-inducing, responsible way.

The media is famous for taking a perfectly rational study, whose conclusion was to suggest that noise machines come with instructions about how to use them safely, and try to create panic just to get someone to click on their website.

I’d be willing to bet that this caused a few parents, who are of course concerned about protecting their children, to throw away a perfectly good product, that can, in fact, help their baby stay asleep, just because they saw a panic-inducing headline and didn’t read the fine print.

There’s one thing that every parent, scientific researcher, and pediatrician can agree on is that we need sleep. It’s undisputed!

We thrive when we prioritize it, and we suffer without it.

So, if your little one is sleeping well with a white noise machine, don’t buy into the idea that you’re damaging their hearing.

Keep it at a reasonable volume, and you’re helping them get the rest they need.

Are you playing white noise and your baby isn’t sleeping?

Want to know exactly how to get your baby sleeping through the night?

Book a complimentary discovery call with me today.

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Here’s to a well-rested family,

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