Could White Noise Be Dangerous for Your Baby?

Hi. My name is Lauren and I’m a white noise addict.

It all started in college… well, sort of. I lived in co-op housing with 50 other girls and shared a bedroom with five of them. One of my roommates had a habit of grinding her teeth, the other one talked (sometimes shouted) in her sleep and the rest were just coming and going whenever. Thus, I developed a habit of wearing ear plugs every night. It was a habit that I brought with me into marriage and one that I didn’t give up until the day I brought home our newborn daughter, and I only gave them up then because I wanted to be able to hear every peep she made in the night.

Once she moved into her own room at 2 months old, I discovered the magic of white noise thanks to “The Happiest Baby on the Block” and the 5 SsWhen I wasn’t physically in the room to make “shushing” sounds, the white noise machine was a great stand in. At first, it was on a timer. Then we graduated into having it run all night long. It was amazing and magical and worked like a dream. Every night I listened to the sweet sounds of white noise on the baby monitor, and before long I was bringing that sound machine everywhere. Vacations, sleepovers with the grandparents… I even had a stuffed animal white noise machine to bring along in the car.

My daughter just turned 2 this January, and we finally ditched the sound machine, and even then it was only because it broke and it seemed silly to buy a new sound machine for a 2-year-old. I’ve been on the hunt for a new one for Baby No. 2, and in doing some shopping around I stumbled upon this article over at “The Huffington Post” about a new study on white noise that has me re-thinking using a sound machine this time around.

The gist of the study done by Dr. Blake Papsin, director of the Cochlear Implant Program at The Hospital for Sick Children in Canada, and his colleagues is that sound machines can be harmful because they produce sound pressure levels that have the potential to harm auditory development in babies. Papsin says that, “At maximum volume, three of [the machines] exceeded the safe levels for adult occupational noise.”

Papsin and his colleagues measure the sound outputs for 14 commonly used US and Canadian sound machines, and the consensus (after factoring in the effects of the machines on a 6-month-old’s ear canal) was that even when placed at maximum distance from a crib, these machines exceeded a volume of 50 dBA, which is the recommended limit for infants.

So, the verdict is that if parents decide to use white noise, it should be with extreme caution and the machine should be kept at a low volume, far away from where the child is sleeping.

As for my personal opinion? I’m still deciding. The findings are definitely unsettling, but I seriously loved my daughter’s sound machine and it made bed time go so much more smoothly. On the other hand, I wouldn’t mind if Baby Boy got used to soothing himself a little bit better than his sister did during the newborn days. She’s always been a pretty light sleeper and I think part of the problem was the sound machine. It would also be nice to have one less thing to lug around when traveling. Maybe it’s time to say goodbye to the sound machine once and for all.

What do you think? Do you or have you used a sound machine? Would you use one again?

{Photo by Lisa Warninger}

Article Posted 4 years Ago

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