Is Your Sound Machine Harming Your Childs Hearing
I do not remember who recommended a sound machine for us as we were planning on the birth of our first child we registered for and received our beloved which we have run nightly in the room of our older son. When my second son came along, we purchased another one and have been happily using it ever since. The devices seem to be unbreakable and provide uniform sound output. They are a bit bulky but the sound has less of the tinny quality of an electronic device . I have found it very useful when traveling as our older son especially is a light sleeper.
The principle behind the use of sound machines is the idea that constant sound prevents intermittent sounds from interrupting sleep. For newborns, Dr. Harvey Karp popularized the idea that white noise louder than a babys crying replicated the sound in the womb and thus recommended white noise from a vacuum or loud shushing would help soothe a fussy baby .
A recent study, however, has made me question the ongoing use of sound machines in our home. A group in Canada studied the amount of ambient noise generated by 14 infant sound machines . They used sophisticated techniques to measure sound levels specifically, they used a sound booth and a device to simulate the size of an infants ear canal. They also corrected for the properties of the hearing of a six month old . They measured at three distances: 30 cm/ 11.8 , 100 cm/ 39.4 , and 200 cm/ 78.7 . They found that:
Theres An App For That
Many months ago, I promised a newsletter on white noise machines. It has arrived!
When Penelope was born, we had a night nanny for several nights shortly after we got home from the hospital. This nanny enriched our lives by arriving and immediately insisting we were undercapitalized. The two things we needed we must have were Miracle Blankets and a white noise machine. Befitting the sleep deprivation of first-time parents, we blindly ordered several of each. Unlike many of the late-night Amazon purchases we made at this time , these were definitely not a waste. The Miracle Blankets survived through Finn, and the white noise machine became something we couldnt live without, as we trucked it along everywhere we went.
The supposed benefit of white noise is better sleep for infants. This is the idea behind the shush in Harvey Karps 5-S sleep solution, and its the reason the SNOO bassinet has an automatic white noise feature. However: there is a flip-side concern, which is that white noise might damage infant hearing. This is especially the case because it often seems to work best when its quite loud.
So the questions about white noise are simple and two-fold. First: Does it help babies sleep? And second, does it damage their hearing?
Does White Noise Help Sleep?
A more recent trial, also of 40 babies, compared white noise with swinging in an effort to soothe colicky babies. The white noise significantly outperformed the swinging.
Does White Noise Damage Hearing?
What Exactly Is White Noise
White noise is a sound which masks other sounds happening in an environment. White noise is produced by combining all the different frequencies of sound at once, so no one sound is clear and distinct from the others. It sounds fuzzy with no specific pitch. Some examples of white noise are a fan whirring in the background, a television with the sound down low or an air-conditioner humming away. White noise often sounds like a low, steady whirring, buzzing, humming or shushing and helps to block out other noises by its sound masking capabilities. There are also lots of white noise apps which can be downloaded onto a phone or tablet. Most are free and play continuously until theyre turned off.
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Harmful Effects Of White Noise Machines
White noise machines are electronic devices used in both personal and professional settings that repeatedly play sounds such as an ocean tide or patterns of noise to block out unwanted noise, promote relaxation and provide privacy. However, white noise machines can make some individuals who are using personal listening devices to use high and potentially dangerous volume levels, warns the Hearing Review. White noise machines also can cause other problems.
What Is Noise And How Does It Cause Hearing Loss
Noise is any unwanted sound that doesnt happen in a natural environment. Noise can include sounds coming from machinery, highway traffic, and industrial, commercial and residential sources.
Noise is caused by pressure changes in the air created by vibrations, which are transferred to the ear by sound waves. The sound waves are then converted to electrical signals by delicate hair cells called cilia, found in the inner ear, or cochlea. These signals are transmitted to the brain and interpreted as sound.
Exposure to loud noise breaks down the cilia and large groups of the cells often get torn away. When the cilia become damaged they do not grow back and this can cause permanent hearing loss.
You can prevent noise-induced hearing loss by eliminating or reducing hazardous noise exposure in your workplace.
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What Noises Cause Hearing Loss
Noise is a significant source of hearing loss, but you can protect your hearing. An important first step is to understand how noise causes hearing loss.
Loud Noise Can Cause Hearing Loss Quickly or Over Time
Hearing loss can result from a single loud sound near your ear. Or, more often, hearing loss can result over time from damage caused by repeated exposures to loud sounds. The louder the sound, the shorter the amount of time it takes for hearing loss to occur. The longer the exposure, the greater the risk for hearing loss .
Here are some sources of loud noise that you may be exposed to. If you are repeatedly exposed to them over time, they can cause hearing loss.
- Music from smartphones and personal listening devices, particularly when the volume is set close to the maximum
- Fitness classes
- Sporting events, such as football, hockey, and soccer games
- Motorized sporting events, such as monster truck shows, stock car or road races, and snowmobiling
- Movie theaters
- Gas-powered lawnmowers and leaf blowers
Common Sources of Noise and Decibel Levels
Sound is measured in decibels . A whisper is about 30 dB, normal conversation is about 60 dB, and a motorcycle engine running is about 95 dB. Noise above 70 dB over a prolonged period of time may start to damage your hearing. Loud noise above 120 dB can cause immediate harm to your ears.
The table below shows dB levels and how noise from everyday sources can affect your hearing.
Looking for Data?
Symptoms Of Asymmetrical Hearing Loss
A unique presentation of one-sided hearing loss is known as the head shadow effect. Essentially when a sound is emanating from the side of the affected ear, an individual is unlikely to hear it since the functional ear is not receiving those sound signals. In this way, the head acts as a block to the sound and casts a symbolic shadow that doesnt allow you to perceive sound with your good ear.
To hear the sound, an individual with unilateral hearing loss typically needs to turn their head so that their non-affected ear is pointed at whoever is speaking.
People who find themselves frequently turning their head during conversations to hear better may want to get a hearing test to ensure their auditory acuity is fully intact, as it can indicate the beginning of hearing loss.
Additional symptoms of unilateral hearing loss include dizziness, a more challenging time hearing people in a noisy environment, difficulty hearing whispers, and more. Getting tested earlier rather than later can allow you to regain your quality of life faster.
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Warning: Infant Sound Machines May Lead To Hearing Loss
Infant sleep machines may be too loud, potentially damaging a baby’s delicate hearing.
New research shows that when played at maximum levels, some of these devices — which play soothing sounds to help babies sleep — could exceed the noise limit recommended for infants at hospital nurseries.
Researchers tested 14 unnamed infant sleep machines that are commonly sold in the U.S. and Canada. They played 65 sounds at the maximum volume and tested them from three different distances: 30 centimeters , 100 centimeters and 200 centimeters .
All of the machines exceeded the 50-decibel noise limit that hospitals adhere to at the 30- and 100-centimeter distances. Three devices reached levels greater than 85 dBA from the 30 centimeter placement. If played consistently for eight hours, those sounds are higher than the noise limits set by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health for adult workers.
Only one machine did not go over the 50-dBA level at the 200 centimeter mark.
“Unless parents are adequately warned of the danger, or the design of the machines by manufacturers is changed to be safer, then the potential for harm exists, and parents need to know about it,” Dr. Gordon B. Hughes, the program director of clinical trials for the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders who was not involved in the study, told the New York Times.
The study was published March 3 in Pediatrics.
Case Of Hearing Loss From Cpap Pressure
A 50-year-old man was found to have sudden-onset hearing loss caused by his CPAP machine but only because he self-titrated it all the way up to the maximum possible level!
As a result he suffered otic barotrauma. So the question then becomes, how many people get hearing loss from CPAP who do NOT self-titrate, or at least, self-titrate responsibly instead of excessively, as did this particular patient?
While the benefits of CPAP are clear, we must take into account the rare but possible effects on ear structure and function, states the report by McCormick et al .
The effects of positive airway pressure on the ear should not be overlooked as a potential consequence of CPAP therapy, says the Journal.
However, the paper also states that barotrauma as a result of CPAP has not been widely documented.
CPAP indeed increases pressure within the middle ear cavity, but there are only a handful of cases reported in literature describing hearing loss resulting in some way from CPAP increasing middle ear pressure.
If you misuse a medical device, this heightens the risk of adverse side effects.
Thats why proper pressure adjustment through titration essential, says Michael Trufant, sleep therapy manager with Aeroflow Industrial Clinic which specializes in providing sleep studies, CPAP treatment options and quality care to sleep apnea patients nationwide.
Trufant explains, If your CPAP machine is increasing pressure in your ears, the settings may need to be adjusted.
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Common Noises That Can Cause Permanent Hearing Loss
One in seven people between the ages of 45 and 64 have hearing loss are you taking the proper precautions to protect yourself?
Confronting My Hearing Loss
“I first noticed my hearing loss in my late 50s. Like most people, I ignored it because I thought it didnt interfere with my life. I also thought acknowledging it would make me old. Over the next 10 years, my hearing worsened and I realized how it was affecting relationships with my family. I thought my grandchildren were mumbling and whispering all the time because I could hardly understand them, especially over the phone.
It took an ear infection to learn how bad my hearing really was. My ENT doctor confirmed my hearing loss and referred me to an audiology practice to be fitted for hearing aids.
I regret waiting so long to do something about my hearing loss. I missed so many conversations and special moments with my husband, children and grandchildren. Thats why I tell people who havent addressed their hearing loss, ‘What are you waiting for?'”– Patty Koele, 71, Ocala, FL
About 14 percent of people between the ages of 4564 have some type of hearing loss, which you might notice as difficulty following conversations or trouble hearing children and women with high voices. Plus, one in three people over the age of 65 have hearing loss, but, like Patty, they tend to wait a long time before doing something about itseven years on average.
Why Hearing Loss Happens
Who Is At Risk For Noise
Your child may be around loud noise anywhere. Examples of noises that can cause hearing loss include:
Common sources of noise from loud appliances such as hair dryers, food processors, blenders traffic or subway or tools or equipment such as leaf blowers and lawn mowers.
Recreational activities like rock concerts, snowmobiles, go-carts, or radio-controlled airplanes.
Listening to music on a personal device, like an MP3 player, with the volume turned up too high.
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The Benefits Of White Noise
Although its counterintuitive, most newborns sleep better with noise in the background than they do in silence.
The infant has spent those many months in the womb, and they would have heard a sort of shushing, swishing sound inside, says Robyn Stremler, a nurse, sleep researcher and associate professor at the University of Toronto. White noise can help to mimic that.
One small study published in the BMJ found that newborns who fall asleep in rooms with white noise are more likely to fall asleep within five minutes and that they sleep longer stretches while its on.
Not all babies will need that noise as they grow into toddlersit seems to depend on the childs temperament, says Wendy Hall, a sleep specialist and professor emerita in UBCs School of Nursing. You could put some kids to sleep in the middle of a loud dinner party and theyd sleep, she says. But often the families I work with will tell me they have a child that is an incredibly light sleeper, and they will wake up when theres any noise around them, even if theyre sound asleep.
If you live in a smaller space or a noisier neighbourhood, white noise can help mask the sudden bursts of sounds that wake kids up, like loud traffic or a sibling yelling.
Don’t Risk Hearing Loss From Your Hobby
The key to prevention, Terry advises, is to be aware of how loud your environment is and wear hearing protection when sound levels are dangerous.
The best advice I can give is to be safeand part of being safe is protecting your hearing, she said. Most people think ‘its not that loud,’ but people dont have a concept for what is loud and what is too loud. Consider adding a sound level meter app to your smartphone. It will tell you how loud an environment is so when you encounter an environment thats louder than you thought, you can wear hearing protection.
Hobbies are important to good quality of life and so is healthy hearing. Regardless of how noisy your hobbies are, make your hearing health a priority by protecting your ears in noisy environments and scheduling annual hearing evaluations. Visit Healthy Hearings directory of verified consumer-reviewed clinics to find a qualified hearing healthcare professional in your community.
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When To Check Your Child’s Hearing
Your child’s hearing should be checked if you observe any of the following:
- Listens to the TV or radio at higher volumes than other children
- Sits closer to the TV when the volume is fine for others
- Asks to have instructions repeated
- Is easily distracted or bothered by background noise
- Has difficulty telling sounds apart
- Has trouble paying attention
- Experiences speech and language, school and learning, or behavioural problems
- Complains of difficulty hearing or blocked ears
- Responds inappropriately to questions
- Watches others to copy what they are doing
- People have to raise their voice to get your child’s attention
- Shows inconsistent response to sound
- Watches the speaker’s face closely to figure out what the person is saying
- Turns their head to face the sound source
- Talks in a soft or loud voice
Its Understandable If A Cpap User Is Concerned About The Machines Noise Or Pressure Causing Hearing Loss
The incidence of hearing loss cases among CPAP users is inversely out of proportion to the number of CPAP users who worry about hearing loss from the noise or pressure.
What that means is this: CPAP therapy can cause hearing loss, but it is so rare that it does not justify worrying over it, and certainly does not validate avoiding use of this therapy for sleep apnea treatment.
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The Facts About Hearing:
- Sounds that are less than 80 decibels are unlikely to cause hearing loss.
- Hearing loss occurs when the tiny hair cells in the inner ear are damaged by loud sounds. Consistent exposure to moderate-level loud sounds damages the hair cells in the inner ear. Over time these cells die and permanent hearing loss occurs.
- Brief exposures to extremely loud sounds can cause permanent damage.
- If you have to shout to be heard, then you should avoid the situation or use ear protection.
- Personal listening devices can reach a maximum of 115 decibels, which is loud enough to cause permanent hearing loss with prolonged use.
What About Hearing Lossfrom Cpap Noise
Trufant explains, In terms of hearing loss, CPAP machines range from 26-30 decibels, and that level should not cause any damage to your hearing. Over time, the sound of your machine will become more of a constant white noise.
If your machine is noisy or seems loud, see your DME something is probably wrong with the device.
You can listen to sounds at 70 dBA or lower for as long as you want, says the American Speech-Language-Hearing Associations site.
A dB range of 26-30 is actually pretty low. The Association describes it as a whisper or quite library.
Double that level, and the Association compares it to typical conversation, dishwasher, clothes dryer.
So you see, the noise from a well-operating CPAP machine cannot possibly cause hearing loss, even if you use the device 40 hours a week.
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