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Is white noise bad for babies? It actually can be harmful

We find out the affects of white noise on baby's ears

Babies and not sleeping go together like peanut butter and jelly. Or like a zombie parent and a baby that won’t sleep. If your child just won’t go down without a fight, you’ve probably been told to try white noise by someone trying to help.

So, what is white noise exactly? And, more importantly, is white noise bad for a baby’s sensitive ears? While not all bedtime noises are created equal, there are benefits from introducing white noise to your baby’s bedtime routine. Let’s go over some information on this background sound of life and whether it could help your baby fall asleep easier.

A sleeping baby being swaddled

White noise must-know basics

What is white noise?

When you hear the term “white noise” you might have flashbacks to the sound of tv static from when you were a kid. As an adult, your favorite white noise is probably your ceiling fan. The technical definition for white noise is “the noise that has the same amplitude, or intensity, throughout the audible frequency range.” Basically, it’s the noise that blocks out other sounds.

Is there a volume the noise should be at?

There is absolutely a volume level you need to pay attention to the white noise being at. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the recommended level is 50 decibels and for the noise to be at least 7 feet away from baby’s ears.

You shouldn’t leave a white noise machine on all night either. If using a machine, have it on until your baby falls asleep, then turn it off. This reduces the risk of any potential cons, even if you are following the proper level and distance guidelines.

Is there one type of white noise that works best?

Every baby is different and will have their own favorite type of white noise. The fun part as a parent is finding that specific noise that lulls your special little one to sleep.

There are a ton of noise machines out there if you want to grab one. You could always go the old-fashioned route and turn the ceiling fan on. Another oldie but goodie is putting on a classic kid’s tv show with the volume almost at zero.

A mother looking in on her sleeping baby.

Possible cons of using white noise

Anything is dangerous for a baby if not used properly. When it comes to white noise, it could be harmful in certain situations.

It can increase the risk of hearing issues

The main issue is that the noise could damage the baby’s hearing. Their sensitive little eardrums can’t handle loud noises. If the noise is too loud or too close to their ear, then over time, the baby could lose some of their hearing.

It could delay speech development

If your baby experiences hearing loss, they’re going to have a harder time learning and developing their language skills.

Babies can become dependent on the noise

If you automatically add the white noise every night, your little one could have a tough time falling asleep if they don’t have that noise every time. This will make it harder for your baby to fall asleep anywhere you can’t recreate that noise.

A parent looking over their baby sleeping in their crib

The pros of using white noise

There are definite benefits to white noise. Used properly, white noise makes bedtime easier for everyone.

It helps babies fall asleep

This one is the whole point of white noise. When a baby is a little restless and won’t fully go down, a little added noise does the trick. It helps your baby fall asleep in as little as 5 minutes according to one study.

It can help them sleep through siblings

Siblings don’t mean to wake up the baby, but they do. White noise in the background softens the noises of other children being children. If you have more than one child, white noise could be the only thing that lets anyone get some rest.

Baby yawning

Myths about white noise

Dr. Harvey Karp, a pediatrician and a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, states that there are some myths out there about white noise that you should know about.

It has to be on the quietest setting

It’s safe to set the noise to at least 50 decibels. Though you don’t want to go too high, turning it up to 65 decibels is fine to do. A vacuum hits 75 decibels, and how many of us have vacuumed near a sleeping baby? Exactly.

All babies love white noise

No, they do not. Some babies don’t like it. It’s going to be a trial-and-error process to see if your baby enjoys white noise.

White noise is only for a certain age

Babies have sleep regression at different points during the first year and beyond. There isn’t a certain month where a baby will or will not need white noise. Some of us adults can’t fall asleep without our favorite comfort show in the background. There is no age where white noise has to go away.

So, is white noise bad for babies? No. As long as you are mindful of the volume, the distance from your baby’s ears, and the duration of the noise, your baby can benefit from white noise.

We are all constantly surrounded with some kind of noise. Don’t you nap better when you have a window open and the sounds of the city help you drift off to sleep? Use the power of white noise to your advantage (in a safe way) so all you hear is your little one’s adorable soft snores.

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