Is White Noise Hurting My Baby?

Once upon a time, at about 2am, our littlest twin would not sleep for love nor money. She would not settle for either parent, for pacing, for swinging, nothing worked. Until I remembered something I had read in a baby article and thought surely anything is worth a try right now. I grabbed my phone, searched through Spotify and found it. White noise!

We used it happily for a couple of weeks on the worst nights when one twin or other would just not settle. Until one night my partner randomly said “The white noise isn’t hurting them in any way, is it?!” I had never thought it could…until he mentioned it. After that I was worried every time I put it on. So I did a little research…

Most past research so far has been made into the physical effects that the sound can make to your child. Paediatricians at The Hospital For Sick Children in Toronto have found that some white noise machines available for sale emit sounds at over 85 decibels. A level that they say is unsafe for fully grown adult ears, let alone tiny baby ones! (Experts say the decibels safe for babies is 50 and under). 14 leading sound machines were also tested by the American Academy of Paediatrics with the same results found. None of the machines they tested were found to emit levels that they felt were appropriate for baby ears. AAP suggested turning down to minimum volume, if possible, and keep at least 7 feet away from baby’s cots or sleeping areas. Basically use your own common sense!

The other research that had been conducted was what I was most concerned about. Research conducted by Edward Chang and colleagues, printed in Science, saw a selection of rat pups exposed to white noise loud enough to drown out all environmental noises and then compared them to normally raised pups. The white noise pups were found to have delayed development in the hearing section of their brains. Other concerns have been raised around babies being bought up with white noise, such as being unable to focus in busy atmospheres. An example given was not being able to focus and perform in any sort of test in a busy environment, as they will not be able to filter out outside noise on their own.

Some other concerns that have been raised are babies becoming reliant on white noise to sleep and not having access to it. But with portable machines and downloadable sound files available to most people, I don’t really see that as being such a modern problem. Critics have come out against both research topics to say that with careful monitoring and moderation, white noise can be a very useful tool available to parents.

Pros

  • Can help settle baby to sleep. Important to both baby and parents, especially through teething, colic and illnesses
  • Is transportable to holidays, staying at family members homes etc so the baby can be settled with a familiar method
  • Can help drown out environmental noises that may scare/wake baby such as household noise, older siblings or any building work etc happening near you

Cons

  • Babies may become dependent on white noise to sleep and may become ‘light sleepers’ without the noise drowned out
  • Developmental research has been conducted with results showing it can have an effect
  • Without careful consideration babies hearing could be effected

So basically, in a nutshell, use your common sense and use in moderation. We only use white noise to settle on extremely unsettled nights when babies are over tired and teething or unwell from jabs etc and nothing else has worked. Do you use white noise to settle your little ones? Have you found something else that people could try? Let me know in the comments or contact us page!

XOXO

Please bear in mind that this research was done in 2015 and 2003 respectively. Much may have changed since then! If you’d like to read more on the research done you can read about them here –

Audio Research

Developmental Research

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