Recently, the safety of white noise machines has been raised in the news and on social media. And if you have been following my tips and advice about how to help your child to sleep through the night, you will know that I recommend using a white noise machine. So, are baby white noise machines safe?
When it comes to our children, safety and their well-being become our top priority the instant they enter our lives. It’s one thing to be fearless when it comes to ourselves, but if our child is in harm’s way, we’ll drop everything to protect them.
So when I saw the online buzz about a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association about the harmful effects of white noise machines, I hesitated and my heart dropped. I have recommended these machines to many clients. They are excellent at drowning out loud environmental noises that wake your child and also helps many babies relax and fall asleep easier.
A Breakdown of the Research
Well, after my initial response of freaking out about this news, I decided to dig further and examine this article that claims that white noise machines are harmful and unsafe.
Keep in mind that to attract more attention, the current media trend is to start with a fear-inducing headline, list the potential harm, then throw in one caveat at the end along the lines, “in most cases, if you use XYZ as intended, you have nothing to fear”. After studying the article, I came to the conclusion that it follows this misleading trend and uses a fear-stoking tactic.
The Backstory of the Article
A pediatric ear surgeon, Blake Papsin at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto got interested in these white noise machines when he walked into a patient’s room and was blasted with white noise. He tested the machine and it was blasting noise over 85 decibels (which is harmful). So, Papsin decided to test 14 different white noise machines by testing the volume at various distances using a sound meter.
Further Examination of the Claims
- Article Finding #1: All 14 machines exceeded 50 decibels at 100 centimeters from the sensor; 50 decibels being the recommended noise limit for hospital nurseries.
Further Explanation #1: 50 decibels is about the same volume as a quiet conversation at home. The reason that nurseries have this noise limit is to create a sleep-friendly environment in the hospital. This noise limit is not about preventing hearing loss.
- Article Finding #2: Three of the machines were able to put out more than 85 dB of white noise. At this decibel level, occupational health and safety associations recommend using hearing protection. For reference, think about the noise that a garbage disposal or a blender makes.
Further Explanation #2: Yes, at this level of noise, there is potential for hearing damage. But, could you fall asleep with noise equivalent to a blender blaring in your room? This is where common sense or a warning on the product’s box is useful. Or perhaps, manufacturers should limit the decibel level of the machine.
Are White Noise Machines Safe?
Yes, if used correctly.
If you use the machine in an irresponsible manner, they aren’t safe. I think that warning parents about the potential harm of white noise machines could have been done in a non-panic-inducing manner rather than the current media’s scare tactics.
If you use a white machine as intended, they are not harmful, so don’t throw yours out! They are still recommended by most sleep experts, including me, as white noise helps some children sleep better. And we can all agree that everyone needs a good sleep. We suffer without it and thrive when we prioritize it.
So, as long as you’re keeping the volume of your white noise machine at a reasonable level and placing it an appropriate distance from the crib, you’re helping your baby get the sleep that they need.
If you would like to know more about how to prioritize your child’s sleep and need help getting them to sleep through the night, schedule a chat with me. I would love to help.