Sound machines that help babies sleep more soundly are a staple on many new parents' baby registries (I had a little sheep that mimicked the sounds of rainfall and ocean waves). Well, as you may have read about elsewhere today, a new study published in the journal Pediatrics finds those soothing sounds may actually do more harm than good. Researchers from the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto have found that infant sleep machines can reach sound levels that are hazardous to infant hearing and development. Writer Michelle Healy outlines their findings in an article in USA Today:
When set to their maximum volume:
-- All 14 sleep machines [studied] exceeded 50 decibels at 30 cm and 100 cm, the current recommended noise limit for infants in hospital nurseries.
-- All but one machine exceeded that recommended noise limit even when placed across the room, 200 centimeters away.
--Three machines produced outputs greater than 85 decibels when placed 30 cm away. If played continuously, as recommended on several parenting websites, infants would be exposed to sound pressure levels that exceed the occupational noise limits for an 8-hour period endorsed by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety.
It's important to note that the researchers only tested the maximum output levels produced by the sound machines, and not their direct effect on infants. But Nanci Yuan, MD, tells Healy that the study does raise some important concerns:
Parents "can feel desperate and want to try anything" when a baby has difficulty sleeping, says Nanci Yuan, pulmonologist and sleep medicine specialist at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital Stanford.
But this research highlights the potential for a previously "unknown harm that can occur," Yuan says. "We're getting more and more concerned about issues related to sound and noise and hearing-loss in children because it's progressive."
Photo by Margarita Gallardo