Many parents use baby sleep machines to mask environmental noises and help babies fall asleep. However, a new study published in the journal Pediatrics suggests that sleep machines can contribute to hearing loss in infants.
Exposure to noise at high output levels can cause hearing loss. The US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health recommends for adults a limit of 85 “A-weighted decibels” (dBA) for an 8-hour exposure. Because infants have much smaller ear canals than adults and are still developing, a noise level limit of 50 dBA averaged over an hour is recommended for hospital nurseries. Higher noise levels, especially sustained higher noise levels, can lead to hearing damage and loss.
For the present study, the researchers tested all 14 sleep machines currently on the market in North America.
On average, the sleep machines had a mean average of 79.1 dBA at the maximum volume. Three machines produced outputs of greater than 85 dBA. One machine produced a maximum noise output of 92.9 dBA. Set at the loudest volume, the machines on average exceeded the maximum noise level recommended for hospital nurseries. Some even exceeded the maximum levels for adult workplaces.
In other words, baby sleep machines could contribute to infant hearing damage and loss.
Based on the results of the study, the researchers believe that infant sleep machines can be used safely but make three policy recommendations for manufacturers:
- Manufacturers should be required to limit the maximum output level of sleep machines
- Manufacturers should be required to print warnings about noise-induced hearing loss on their products’ packaging
- Manufacturers should be required to include a timer that automatically shuts the device off after a predetermined period of time.
For parents who use sleep machines to help their babies sleep, the researchers also make three recommendations for the use of infant sleep machines:
- Place the device as far away as possible from the baby, and never in the crib or on the rail of the crib
- Play the sleep machine at a low volume
- Play the sleep machine for a short duration of time.
Thus, although infant sleep machines can result in hearing loss and damage among infants, safe use can promote sleep while protecting hearing.
Can Infant Sleep Machines Be Hazardous to Babies’ Ears?: http://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/pages/Can-Infant-Sleep-Machines-Be-Hazardous-to-Babies’-Ears.aspx
Infant Sleep Machines and Hazardous Sound Pressure Levels: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2014/02/25/peds.2013-3617.full.pdf+html
Infant Sleep Machines Could Damage Babies’ Hearing: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/273468.php
Baby Sleeping on Green Bed: http://www.freeimages.com/photo/1166486