When your baby or child has trouble sleeping, you might use a sound machine to create background noise in the bedroom. The presence of background “white” noise masks other noises and provides a soothing sound that could improve sleep patterns. If you use a sound machine for your child, learn to avoid possible health risks.
1. Harmful Decibel Level
The decibel level of a sound determines whether it has the potential for causing hearing damage. For example, a power lawn mower has a decibel level of 90 and a normal conversation has a decibel level of 60, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Noises at 85 decibels are safe for about eight hours, states the CDC. The decibel level of the white noise will impact the safety of the machine for your child.
2. Sound Machine Decibel Level
Sound machines vary in decibel level, with some units even enabling you to set the volume level according to your needs or desires. To avoid hearing damage for your child, choose a sound machine with decibel level that does not exceed 60, according to the SleepWellBaby website. Higher decibel levels might cause harm over time. A sound machine specifically created for babies and children with recommended decibel levels might be a wise choice.
3. Possible Developmental Delays
It’s possible that a child’s brain may suffer negative effects with continuous exposure to background white noise, according to researchers connected with the University of California, San Francisco and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. In the study, immature rats received exposure to constant white noise, simulating common noisy environments. Researchers determined that the rats experienced auditory development delays as a result of the noise levels. Later, when the rats' environment returned to normal noise levels, auditory development matured to normal levels. It’s possible that overexposure to a sound machine could lead to impaired language acquisition and hearing.
4. Other Noise Effects
Sustained and irritating noises may threaten a child’s psychological and physical health, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. In addition to language and hearing impairments, it’s possible that a child could also experience learning impairments and disturbances to the cardiovascular system. The EPA recommends a quiet sleeping environment for children.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Noise and Hearing Loss Prevention
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: They’re Your Ears Protect Them
- SleepWellBaby: How Loud is a White Noise Machine
- Howard Hughes Medical Institute: White Noise Delays Auditory Organization in the Brain
- United States Environmental Protection Agency: Noise and Its Effects on Children
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