In today's fast-paced and noisy world, sound machines have gained significant popularity as a tool for creating a soothing environment for sleep and relaxation for babies. From nurseries to bedrooms, these devices play gentle sounds that help mask disruptive noises and create a calming environment for your baby to sleep. However, if not used properly they could potentially create harmful damage to your child’s auditory (hearing) system, which could result in noise induced hearing loss.
It's crucial to understand the importance of using sound machines responsibly, particularly when it comes to protecting our children's hearing. In this blog post, we'll explore the role of sound machines in creating a peaceful sleep environment while focusing on their proper usage. I’ll also address 6 easy steps to ensure you are using sound machines safely and provide guidance for those concerned about their child's hearing.
How to use sound machines safely:
Many parents are rightfully concerned about the potential impact of sound machines on their child's hearing health. It is essential to understand their appropriate usage to protect young ears effectively. Below are 6 steps to follow to ensure you are using sound machines safely.
- CHECK THE VOLUME
Setting the volume of a sound machine at a safe level is an important consideration. It is recommended to keep the volume at a level that allows for comfortable listening without being too loud. Generally, a volume below 50 - 55 dBa is considered safe for children.
When used at appropriate volume levels, sound machines are generally considered safe. It's crucial to select a sound machine that allows for volume control. If you want to double check to make sure your little one’s sound machine is set at a safe level, I suggest downloading a sound level meter app to verify. I love this one here!
- DO NOT PUT THE SOUND MACHINE DIRECTLY IN YOUR BABY'S CRIB
It’s important to ensure the sound machine is placed at a safe distance from your baby. The closer the sound machine, the louder the sound, and the more dangerous it can be to your child’s hearing. Avoid placing the sound machine in your little one’s crib. Instead, place it across the room, at least 6-7 feet from your child, close to the door or window to block out any external noise.
- SET THE TIMER
Parents often question whether it's necessary to keep the sound machine running continuously throughout the night or if it should be turned off after their child falls asleep. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advises against prolonged exposure to loud or amplified sounds, including those from sound machines.
It's generally recommended to only use the sound machine when your child is falling asleep. I love that the Dreamland sound machine has a timer that you can set for 30, 60, or 90 minutes. The timer is a great setting because it will turn off once your child is asleep and prevent unnecessary exposure to loud sounds for a prolonged period of time.
- USE SOUND MACHINES TO BLOCK OUT EXTERNAL NOISE
One of the primary purposes of sound machines, as recommended by the AAP, is to block out background noise. By creating a consistent sound environment, these devices can help children concentrate, relax, and sleep better. When used correctly, they create a barrier that shields delicate ears from loud environmental noise.
Many parents wonder if regular use of a sound machine can create a dependency on it for sleep. While sound machines can create a soothing sleep environment, it's important to promote healthy sleep habits and gradually transition away from relying solely on the sound machine for sleep. Remember, sound machines should be primarily used to block out external noise rather than to soothe your child to sleep.
- CREATE MEANINGFUL AUDITORY MOMENTS
Parents may express concerns about the impact of sound machines on their child's speech and language skills. Rest assured, short-term use of sound machines during sleep is unlikely to interfere with speech and language development. It's important to provide ample opportunities for language exposure and interaction during wakeful hours. Some of my favorite activities include singing songs or reading books.
- USE A SOUND MACHINE THAT MEETS SAFETY STANDARDS
I love that the Dreamland Baby sound machine has a timer setting to prevent prolonged exposure to noise. It also has multiple different sounds to choose from including white noise, rain noise, and lullabies. The volume control allows you to ensure that your baby's sound machine is set at a safe level and it sits neatly on any surface so you can place it at a safe distance from your baby’s crib.
Understanding Noise-Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL):
Noise-induced hearing loss occurs when prolonged exposure to loud sounds damage the sensitive structures within the ear. Children are particularly vulnerable to NIHL due to their developing auditory systems and small ear canals. Research shows that exposure to sounds above 85 decibels (dB) for extended periods can lead to irreversible hearing damage. Therefore the proper use of sound machines is critical for maintaining the overall hearing health for your child.
Protect your child's hearing:
Noise-induced hearing loss is a significant concern for children, and proper use of sound machines can contribute to preventing this condition. By utilizing sound machines to block out background noise rather than relying on them solely for soothing purposes, we can create a safer auditory environment for children. By addressing common questions parents have about sound machines, we provide clarity and guidance for responsible usage. Want to know more about sound machines, childhood hearing loss and hearing development? Check out my podcast with The Mom Manual to get the full scoop!
When to get your child's hearing checked:
Hearing is the foundation upon which your child’s ability to talk and communicate is built. The sounds they hear, from simple coos to complex words, shape their ability to talk and communicate, learn, and build relationships. If you have concerns about your child’s hearing, you don’t want to play the waiting game. Children can have their hearing checked at any age and it’s the best way to ensure they have all the tools for effective communication in the future. If you have concerns about your child’s hearing, talk to their pediatrician or schedule an appointment with a pediatric audiologist.