Is White Noise Bad for Babies' Hearing?
In 2014, a study of sound machines brought up several questions about white noise. Researchers tested 14 machines (marketed specifically for sleeping babies), placed 30 centimetres from the babies’ heads and cranked them to max volume. When they measured how much sound reached the baby, they found that 3 devices exceed 85 dB.
Does White Noise Damage a Baby’s Hearing?
The researchers warned that, if played at that intensity for 8 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 mum’s) sleep, white noise may prevent many of the terrible problems triggered by these 2 stressors including postpartum depression, cot death and child abuse. But it only works if it is loud enough!
How Loud Should White Noise Be?
As you can see in the figure below, white noise at 50 dB offers absolutely no benefit for your baby’s sleep. Sound does not start boosting sleep until it gets to 60 to 65 dB.
Should White Noise Volume Be Adjusted?
Needless to say, do not 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 is a heck of a lot less trauma to your baby’s ears than her own crying!
Are White Noise Machines Safe for Babies?
The answer again, is YES. White noise machines benefit a baby by promoting sleep. However, it is important to keep noise at a safe level for a baby and adults. If white noise machines produce sound above safe decibel levels, then they can be harmful.
Bottom line: When your baby cries, boost the sound–for several minutes–to the level of her cries. After she has been asleep for 5 or 10 minutes, reduce the sound to the level of a soft shower, around 65 dB.
Learn more about the benefits of white noise.
If changing your baby’s white noise levels sounds like a hassle, you might want to try SNOO Smart Sleeper! It is the only baby cot that automatically adjusts white noise levels—and reacts to your baby's fussing and delivers the right level to soothe her. The sound increases to match the level of fussing and decreases when she calms. And, all-night ‘rain-on-the-rooftop’ sound helps with night awakenings. Learn more.
Have questions about a Happiest Baby product? Our consultants would be happy to help! Submit your questions here.
Disclaimer: The information on our site is NOT medical advice for any specific person or condition. It is only meant as general information. If you have any medical questions and concerns about your child or yourself, please contact your health provider. Breastmilk is the best source of nutrition for babies. It is important that, in preparation for and during breastfeeding, mothers eat a healthy, balanced diet. Combined breast- and bottle-feeding in the first weeks of life may reduce the supply of a mother's breastmilk and reversing the decision not to breastfeed is difficult. If you do decide to use infant formula, you should follow instructions carefully.