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Canadian researchers: Use infant sleep machines with caution

By Kathleen Blanchard     Mar 3, 2014 in Health
A Canadian study published in the journal Pediatrics suggests white noise machines used to help infants sleep could lead to hearing loss later on. Infant sleep machines should be used with caution the researchers warn.
According to investigator for the study, infant sleep machines tested can exceed the safe level of 50 decibels that can harm ear development.
Infant sound machines are marketed to help babies get to sleep sooner and sleep longer. They can be purchased to provide nature sounds, lullabies, white noise and more to drown out startling sounds in the home. The machines are popular. Some can even accommodate an MP3 player.
Dr. Blake Papsin, Canadian lead author from the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, and his colleagues think sleep machines could lead to noise induced hearing loss that already affects approximately 5.2 million children and adolescents age 6 to 19, according to the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
It only takes one exposure to a loud noise to cause damage to nerve fibers. The implication for children is especially important. Hearing loss can lead to language and communication problems and developmental delays.
The study
For their study, the researchers purchased infant sleep machines in the U.S. and Canada and then tested the maximum decibel level. in a booth.
Next they placed the machines at varying distances from a crib a and adjusted the sound to see what effect the machines had on a 6-month old infant’s ears.
The results showed all 14 machines exceeded 50 decibels that is permitted in the hospital. Three of the machines reached 85 deciles and one exceeded 85 Dba. that could damage adults ears over an 8-hour period.
Parents may not be aware of sleep machine volume
"Most parents assume the sleep machines are safe," Papsin told LiveScience. “And it's common for parents to underestimate how much volume a baby's ears are truly getting.”
Papsin feels infants are better soothed to sleep hearing a heartbeat or a parent's soft soothing voice..
The study authors recommend that manufacturers put a limit on the sound output, include a warning with the machines and design them to turn off with a mandatory timer and an automatic shut off feature.
It’s not that the sound machines don’t work or even that they shouldn’t be used, but rather about how long and at what volume they’re set.
“An informed parent is the best parent. We are not saying not to use these machines. We are simply suggesting that they be used with caution, and other methods, such as lullabies and sound absorbers, be used whenever possible,” says Papsin in a press release.
According to, you really can teach your infant to sleep by keeping a consistent bedtime schedule and by employing verbal and nonverbal reassurance. Relax your baby with a warm bath, soothing music, talk softly and dim the lights. The recommendation is to stick to the same time and same routine each night. `Sit in a chair next to your baby’s crib until they fall asleep. If your baby begins to fuss, pat him or her on the head and let them know you are there - or you can use a sleep machine,. Just use it at the lowest volume and turn it off as soon as your child is asleep. Infant sleep machines could harm your baby’s hearing later on if not used with caution, according to the Canadian researchers
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