Is White Noise Bad For Babies' Ears?
Can Noise Machines Hurt A Baby’s Hearing?
In 2014, a study of sound machines kicked up a lot of questions about white noise. Researchers tested fourteen machines (marketed specifically for sleeping babies), placed twelve inches from the babies’ heads, and cranked them to max volume. When they measured how much sound reached the baby they found that three devices exceed 85 dB.
The researchers warned that, if played at that intensity for eight hours straight, that amount of noise (85 dB) would exceed safety standards and might reach a level that could hurt hearing. They advised 1) moving machines as far away as possible, 2) playing them at 50 dB, and 3) stopping the sound after the baby fell asleep.
That advice may seem logical, but I believe it is wrong . . . and even dangerous. By reducing infant crying and boosting a baby’s (and mother’s) sleep, white noise may prevent many of the terrible problems triggered by these two stressors including depression, SIDS and child abuse. Bu it only works if it is loud enough! As you can see in this figure from another study, white noise at 50 dB offers absolutely no benefit for your baby’s sleep. Sound doesn’t start boosting sleep until it gets to 60 to 65 dB.
Needless to say, don’t blast sound at the maximum volume . . . all night . . . right next to your baby’s head. However, loud sound for minutes (not hours) is super helpful for calming crying. And it’s a heck of a lot less trauma to your baby’s ears than her own crying! That’s why a smart sleeper can be so helpful. It automatically adjusts to give only the amount of white noise a baby needs: more if she is crying and less if she is sleeping.
Bottom line: When your baby cries, boost the sound – for several minutes – to the level of her cries. After she’s been asleep for five or ten minutes, reduce the sound to the level of a soft shower, around 65 dB.
SNOO Smart Sleeper is the only baby bed with a responsive white noise machine - that reacts to your baby's cries. The sound increases when your baby cries and decreases when she calms.