Could you be damaging your baby’s hearing?

Infant sleep machines (ISMs) are highly advised for new parents seeking tips online. However, studies show these machines could be harming your baby’s development in their sleep!

Why are ISMs so popular?

ISMs produce sounds such as white noise to reduce the difference between silence and sudden loud sounds. This helps babies sleep through the night, and allows parents to wash dishes or do laundry without waking up their baby. Many new parents even report that their baby “seems to sleep through anything” since they got an ISM.

So, where’s the problem?

Hourly sound levels exceeding 50 dBA can damage a baby’s hearing, and many ISMs are even louder! This means that your ISM could be placing your baby at risk of developing noise-induced hearing loss.

A study on 14 ISMs widely used in Canada and the US tested 3 distances from a 6-month old baby’s ear (30 cm to simulate an ISM on the rail of a crib,1 m for an ISM near the crib, and 2 m for an ISM across the room.) When used on full volume, “all 14 ISMs were capable of producing noise above 50 dBA at distances of 30 and 100 cm.” Furthermore, “13 of 14 ISMs were capable of producing noise >50 dBA at a distance of 200 cm.”

What’s worse is that the loudest ISM only needs to be played for 2 hours before exceeding safe limits. Nightly exposure to white noise could also affect your child’s hearing, speech, and language development.

How can ISMs be used safely?

As a loud noise gets further from your ear, it becomes less damaging to your hearing. Therefore, you should place the ISM as far away from the crib as possible. Most ISMs come with volume control as well, so it is important to keep the volume is as low as you can. Finally, if your ISM has timed shut-off, use it! Turning off the ISM after your baby falls asleep will further help preserve their hearing.

Read more about this study here:

Karen Kahansky

About Karen Kahansky

Karen Kahansky founded K & H Audiology in North York, Ontario in 1986. She began her hearing health career in a private practice treating people with hearing conditions. Karen then worked in the hearing aid industry where she gained an intimate knowledge of hearing aid technology. It was during this time that Karen learned how analog hearing aids work and honed her skills in fine-tune digital hearing aids. As a result, Karen is one of the few audiologists in Canada who is able to customize hearing aids to meet a patient’s specific condition and preferences.