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Sound Machines Could Hurt Infants’ Ears

Update Date: Mar 03, 2014 09:44 AM EST

Since sleep is very important for one's health, parents might opt to put a sound machine in the baby's room. These sound machines play soothing music that is supposed to help the infant fall and stay asleep. In a new study, researchers set out to examine the effects of using these machines on infants' hearing. The researchers reported that some of the machines reach sound levels that could be extremely dangerous for hearing development.

"These machines are capable of delivering enough of a dose over a period of time to theoretically cause hearing loss, but that's not been tested," said the study's senior author Dr. Blake Papsin, reported by CNN. Papsin is associated with the University of Toronto and the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto.

For their analysis, the researchers looked at 14 infant sleeping machines that are available in the Untied States and Canada. The machines played a total of 65 different types of sounds, which included white noise, mechanical sounds, heartbeat sounds, and nature sounds. They specifically focused on the machine's maximum volume level and the noise levels at different distances from the baby's crib. The distances were 30-centimeters, 100-centimeters and 200 centimeters.

The study researchers reported that in hospital nurseries and the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), sound level is set at 50 decibels over the span of roughly one hour. The researchers discovered that three of the machines produced noise that surpassed 85 decibels when they were placed on the side of the crib. Every single machine produced noise that surpassed 50 decibels when positioned next to or in the crib. 13 of the machines produced noise levels higher than 50 decibels when they were placed across the room.

"The main message is that off-the-rack machines - three of them - at certain conditions are capable of producing hazardous levels of sounds," Papsin said reported by FOX News. "I'm not saying they were (producing hazardous sound), but they were capable."

The U.S. and Canada recommend noise levels to be limited within the workplace at 85 decibels over eight hours for adults. The researchers concluded that parents who owned some of these machines could be exposing their infants to sound levels that surpass what adults are hearing during work.

The researchers chose to keep the sleeping machines' brands anonymous in their study. They are recommending all manufacturers to limit the maximum sound level to a safe number of decibels and incorporate a timer that would automatically shut down the machine after an extended period of time. Manufacturers should also include a warning label about the dangers of hearing loss. Furthermore, the researchers state that parents should place the machines as far away from the crib as possible to reduce the noise levels.

Some critics of the study reported that white noise is important in helping infants sleep for a period of time. Since the study did not find a causal effect, the critics suggested that parents could continue to use these machines but at a different distance to the crib.

The study was published in Pediatrics.

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