Is White Noise Safe for Babies?

White noise has emerged as a new choice in the already crowded infant market in recent years. Manufacturers of white noise machines assert that their products enhance infant sleep, quiet agitated crying, and aid in the creation of awake/sleep cycles.

White noise is also growing in popularity among parents who want to ensure that their child is not distracted by outside noises.

Nevertheless, how accurate are the claims, and can white noise really be more harmful than beneficial?

Continue reading to learn the details and discover what you need to know about white noise.

White noise: What is it exactly?

White noise is a sound that hides other environmental sounds. As all the various sound frequencies are combined together to create white noise, no single sound can be clearly distinguished from the others. It has a vague, undefined pitch.

A fan buzzing in the distance, a television with the sound turned down, or a humming air conditioner are a few instances of white noise. White noise has the ability to cover other sounds and frequently has a low, constant whirring, buzzing, humming, or shushing sound. With a phone or tablet, there are a tonne of white noise apps that can be downloaded. The majority are free and keep playing until they are shut off.

What purported advantages does white noise have?

White noise may be useful in helping babies fall asleep, according to a 1990 study. Several research that have since been conducted on the effects of white noise are less encouraging.

It’s crucial for parents to consider the most recent research before making the best choice for them and their infant.

In order to drown out other household noise, white noise can be helpful. A sleeping baby can be disturbed by a variety of noises, including traffic, loud music, dogs barking, and children playing. Some parents claim that their baby quickly learned to associate white noise with sleep and that it serves as a trigger for bedtime.

When compared to other things, white noise is controlled by parents. It can be customised to the needs of the parent and the infant by being switched on, off, up, or down. It’s yet another «thing to try» in the process of getting kids to fall asleep.

White noise machines designed specifically for babies frequently offer a variety of sounds. Shh-ing background noises can be accompanied by music, lullabies, or even a heartbeat to simulate sounds the infant was exposed to while still inside the mother.

In settling their infant, some parents find that playing white noise allows them to shift their focus. White noise can have a calming effect on parents who are anxious about their baby’s sleep or settling.

Some infants get habituated to loudness to the point that they become more alert in utter silence. White noise in the background that is constant is less frightening than total quiet.

What Drawbacks Does White Noise Possess?

While they operate on the theory of cumulative noise, white noise machines can raise the risk of noise-related hearing damage. The baby’s growing ears are exposed to noise when they are played for extended periods of time at a high volume. Since their ear architecture differs greatly from that of adults, they may experience long-term hearing loss as well as abnormalities of the audio processing system.

White noise can get babies used to it to the point where they can’t fall asleep without it. This implies that being abroad for a few days or being in a setting where white noise is simply not an option might be very inconvenient.
A white noise generator might be expensive to purchase. Even though some are about $30, the cost might gradually go to $100 or more.

Many parents strongly think that the amount of help they offer their child to fall asleep should be kept to a minimum. Developing a child’s ability to settle down on their own early on might be beneficial; just remember to «start as you mean to continue on.»

White noise may not be a baby’s favourite. Don’t expect that your baby will react favourably if you play it in their room when they are sleeping. Similarly, parents, especially moms who are dealing with incontinence concerns, can become more than moderately frustrated hearing a repeated «shh shh shh» or sound of water flowing!

Researchers have expressed worry about the possibility that white noise may be a factor in children’s difficulties with auditory processing.

Is White Noise a Safe Practice?

The main problem with white noise generators is that we are still unsure of their potential long-term impacts. They haven’t existed long enough to provide any firm conclusions concerning harm. Nonetheless, we are aware that a baby’s ear differs from an adult’s. Researchers from The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto who attended a study in 2014 found that several of the white noise generators they tested surpassed what was at the time deemed an acceptable decibel range, which was 50 dB.

Three different distances from the baby’s head were tested with a variety of noises coming from various white noise devices. They were all found to be louder than what was advised for infants in hospital nurseries (at that time). Even though this study was done a few years ago, there is still no confirmation that the white noise machines that are currently on the market don’t go over the limits of acceptable loudness.

The advice given at the time of this study to keep white noise machines as far away from the baby as possible, at the lowest volume feasible, and at least 200 cm away from the baby’s cot may still hold true today. Safe listening is based on the volume, duration, and frequency of sound exposure, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The sound energy level to which the ears are exposed is determined by a combination of these three elements. For adults, 85 dB per hour is the highest degree of exposure that is safe.

White noise may cause youngsters to develop auditory processing impairments, according to some researchers. This is due to the brain’s rapid adaptation to the sound, which causes it to lose its appeal as music. Issues with learning, speech, and language may result from this over time.

A wide variety of developmental and learning issues can be impacted by audio processing impairments. Also, it’s thought that exposure to white noise generators may increase the likelihood that neonates would experience noise-induced hearing loss or, as mentioned above, auditory (hearing) system maldevelopment.

How to Use White Noise Safely

Use alternative strategies to calm and relax your infant first. Instead of using white noise to help your infant go asleep, consider other strategies.

Always read the safety instructions and directions provided by the manufacturer.
Never place a phone, iPad, or white noise machine inside your baby’s cot.
Make sure the volume is low or at the lowest sound level; never raise it over this.
Never put white noise in the foreground; always use it as the background noise.
Especially when your baby is attempting to fall asleep, be aware of the disruptive effect of loud noises.
White noise should not be louder than a conversation in the background or running water in the shower.
After your baby falls sleeping, turn off the white noise.
You should never put a white noise machine close to your baby’s head or ears.
As far away from your baby’s cot as you can, place the white noise machine.
Alternately, don’t set the volume to its highest setting.
White noise should only be used for brief periods of time—no more than an hour—and should be turned off after your child has fallen asleep.
Never sleep with a white noise machine on.


Contributors to Neighbour Noise Annoyance
White noise enhances new-word learning in healthy adults
Altering brain dynamics with transcranial random noise stimulation
Harmonicity aids hearing in noise
The Immune System Can Hear Noise
Phase Noise of SAW Delay Line Magnetic Field Sensors
Aviation Noise Impacts: State of the Science
Visual Perception: Seeing motion signals in noise
Noise pollution

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