Do you use a sound machine? Read this

Do you use a sound machine? Read this

Many parents of babies and young children feel sound machines are an important component of successful sleep for their child. But oftentimes they are used at dangerously loud levels, posing a risk of hearing loss and permanent damage.

According to a new study published in the journal “Sleep Medicine,” many sound machines produce noise louder than recommended exposure for adults at an eight-hour work shift. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has a recommended exposure limit (REL) of 85 decibels over eight hours. It states that “workers who are exposed to noise at or above the NIOSH REL are at risk of developing significant hearing loss over their working lifetime.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics says prolonged exposure to noise greater than 70 decibels can lead to hearing damage in children. If an environment is too loud for an adult, then it’s too loud for a child.

“Sensory signals from our sleep environment and bedtime routine serve as sleep cues to our brains that help us fall asleep and stay asleep. Sound is just one of these signals,” says Dr. Darius Loghmanee, a sleep specialist at Advocate Children’s Hospital. “In addition to helping provide a sense of safety and a sleep onset association, sound machines also drown out noises from outside the sleep environment. This is important for families because it allows parents to move around the home without fear of waking their child. This study highlights that families should be mindful that they are not relying so heavily on this tool that high volume damages their child’s hearing.”

Dr. Loghmanee says if a child needs a stronger signal than a sound machine at low volume, parents can consider adding other sensory signals. “Scented hand lotion, pillow spray or tactile stimulation from a lovey can also serve as sleep onset associations. Diversifying the number of sensory signals present at sleep onset will also help avoid a child from relying heavily on just one, making it hard to sleep if that particular sensory signal is not present.”

Are you trying to find a pediatrician? Find one in Illinois or Wisconsin. 

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About the Author

Holly Brenza
Holly Brenza

Holly Brenza, health enews contributor, is a public affairs coordinator on the content team at Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care. She is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Chicago. In her free time, Holly enjoys reading, watching the White Sox and Blackhawks, playing with her dog, Bear and running her cats' Instagram account, @strangefurthings.