It’s one of the most popular items on baby registries — that white noise machine that could be the difference between an extra 30 minutes of sleep.
But before you decide to leave this miracle worker on all day, a new study in the Pediatrics journal is bringing us some pause.
According to the study, some noise machines may be hazardous to your child’s hearing. Some can produce sounds that could potentially damage your baby’s hearing and auditory development.
“These machines are capable of delivering enough of a dose over a period of time to theoretically cause hearing loss, but that’s not been tested,” explained study author Dr. Blake Papsin.
Researchers tested multiple sleep machines at full volume and from different distances from the child’s crib. And while authorities have set workplace sound limits to 85 decibels, three of the sleep machines had outputs higher than this limit. With these findings, the author recommends that the sound machine be set to a lower volume away from the child’s crib and be limited to a shorter amount of time.
Not all experts agree with these conclusions though. Dr. Harvey Karp, author of the book “The Happiest Baby on the Block” argued that there is no rationale to shortening the time usage of the sound machines.
“The white noise is there as a continual presence, just like a teddy bear,” Karp said. “It’s like a teddy bear of sounds.”
Patti Martin from the Arkansas Children’s Hospital also felt that the issue with the machines is the volume, not the duration of use.
“From a safety issue, from a nutrition issue, from a growth issue, all of those sorts of things — sleep is critical for them,” she explained the benefits of white noise to infant sleep.
For now, the verdict is still out. But while a lot of us will be turning down the volumes of our favorite sound machines, I feel that we will still keep it with our babies as an ode to sleep.