How safe is white noise for infants?

The baby industry is already crowded, but white noise has recently emerged as another choice.

White noise machine manufacturers assert that their products promote infant sleep, reduce hysterical crying, and aid in the creation of wake-and-sleep cycles.

For parents who want their kid to sleep uninterrupted by outside noise, white noise is also growing in popularity.

Nevertheless, to what extent are the allegations valid, and can white noise really be more harmful than beneficial?

Continue reading to learn more about the truth about white noise and what you need to know.

Describe white noise in detail

White noise is a sound that obscures other ambient noises. Due to the simultaneous blending of all the different sound frequencies, white noise lacks any discernible differences between individual sounds. No discernible pitch and it sounds hazy. An air conditioner humming away, a television with the sound turned down, or a fan spinning in the distance are some examples of white noise.

Due to its ability to cover other sounds, white noise frequently has a low, constant whirring, buzzing, humming, or shushing sound and can help filter out outside noises. Also available for download on a phone or tablet are a tonne of white noise apps. The majority are unrestricted free entertainment that never stops playing.

Which advantages of white noise are claimed?

White noise may be useful in assisting babies to fall asleep, according to a pioneering study from 1990. Other research on the effects of white noise has since been conducted, but it is less encouraging.

Before selecting what’s best for them and their child, parents should consider the most recent research.

Using white noise to drown out other household noise can be helpful. A sleeping baby can be disturbed by a variety of noises, including children playing, loud music, dogs barking, and traffic. White noise, according to some parents, can serve as a trigger for bedtime because babies quickly learn to associate it with sleep.

Contrary to most else, white noise is regulated by parents. According to the preferences of the parent and the child, it can be customised and switched on or off, up or down. It’s another «thing to try» when attempting to get kids to fall asleep.

Machines designed specifically for babies typically offer a variety of noises. An overlay of music, lullabies, or even a heartbeat can be added to background «shh-ing» noises to simulate the sounds the baby was exposed to while still inside the mother.

In calming their child, some parents find that playing white noise helps them divert their attention. White noise may have a calming effect on parents who are anxious about their baby’s sleep or settling.
Some infants get used to noise to the point where they become more alert when everything is perfectly quiet. Less unnerving than total quiet is a steady background white noise.

How Does White Noise Affect You?

Since they operate on the theory of accumulated noise, white noise machines can raise the risk of hearing loss due to noise. The newborn is exposed to sounds that their developing ears are not suited for when they are played for a long time at a high volume. Long-term hearing loss as well as abnormalities of auditory processing are both possible because to the significantly different anatomy of their ears compared to adults.

White noise can help babies fall asleep since they grow accustomed to it and cannot sleep without it. Being abroad for a few days or finding yourself in a scenario where white noise is just not an option might be very inconvenient.

It can be expensive to purchase a white noise generator. The price of some can climb up to $100 or more, despite the fact that several are available for approximately $30.

The majority of parents strongly believe that helping their child go asleep should be minimised. Using the dictum «start as you mean to go on» can be beneficial for improving self-settling skills in infants.
White noise is not a favourite of every baby. When it is playing in their sleeping area, don’t expect your infant will react favourably. Similar to this, parents—especially moms who are dealing with incontinence issues—can become more than just moderately frustrated if they constantly hear «shh shh shh» or the sound of water flowing.

Researchers have expressed worries over the possibility that white noise may be causing issues with children’s auditory processing.

How Safe is White Noise?

White noise generators present a significant challenge because we are still unsure of their potential long-term impacts. They don’t have enough experience to offer any firm conclusions about harm. We are aware that a baby’s ear is different from an adult’s, though. In one study conducted in 2014, researchers from The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto discovered that several of the white noise generators they examined surpassed what was at the time deemed an acceptable decibel limit, which was 50 dB.

When positioned three different distances away from a baby’s head, a variety of white noise machines’ sound outputs were examined. The noise levels for infants in hospital nurseries that were recommended by all of those examined were all surpassed (at that time). Despite the fact that this study was done a few years ago, there is still no evidence to suggest that the white noise machines that are currently on the market don’t go above the legal limit for noise.

The advice given at the time of this study to keep white noise machines as far away from the baby as feasible, at the lowest level possible, and at least 200 cm away from the baby’s cot may still be relevant today.

The World Health Organization (WHO) states that safe listening relies on the volume, duration, and frequency of sound exposure. The amount of sound energy that the ears are exposed to depends on all three of these elements. Adults can be exposed to 85 dB over a period of eight hours without harm.

White noise, according to some researchers, may cause auditory processing abnormalities in children. This occurs as a result of the brain’s rapid adaptation to the sound, which causes it to lose its appeal. This can have long-term repercussions that affect learning, speech, and language.

Many developmental and learning issues might be exacerbated by audio processing impairments. White noise machine use is also thought to increase the likelihood that babies would experience noise-induced hearing loss or, as was mentioned above, auditory (hearing) system maldevelopment.

Using White Noise Safely

Initially, consider alternative strategies for calming and settling your infant. Try to find alternative methods to help your infant go asleep instead of using white noise.

The manufacturer’s instructions and safety precautions should always be followed.
Never leave a phone, iPad, or white noise machine in your infant’s cot.
As loud as this is, the volume should always be adjusted to low or the minimum sound level.
Never use white noise as the main sound; always use it as the background.
Keep in mind that loud noises might be disruptive, especially while your baby is attempting to sleep.
Try to keep the white noise level at or below a quiet conversation or running water in the shower.
Once your child is sound asleep, turn off the white noise.
White noise machines should never be placed close to a baby’s head or ears.
Put the white noise generator as far away from your infant’s cot as you can.
Alternatively, refrain from turning up the volume all the way.
Use white noise only during calming intervals that last no more than an hour, and turn it off as soon as your child is asleep.
Avoid using a white noise machine every time you go to bed.


Noise as a sleep aid: A systematic review
[Auditory threshold for white noise]
Canadians vulnerable to workplace noise
White noise does not induce fetal sleep
Noise distracts foraging bats
Systematic review: auditory stimulation and sleep
Sleeping Like a Baby

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