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If you are a parent that uses a sound machine to help your infant sleep, you might want to resort to another method.  New research released by the American Academy of Pediatrics found that infant sleep machines may damage their hearing.

According to the study, many parenting websites recommend the use of infant “sleep machines,” or (ISMs) that produce noise to cover other sounds in the room to help them sleep. The study used sound levels from 14 different sound machines and placed them at different distances away from a machine using “correction factors” to mimic the ear canal of a 6-month-old.

Sound levels at 30 centimeters away were more than the 50-decibel noise limit recommended for infants in hospital nurseries.  Three of the 14 machines tested had levels greater than 85 decibels which, after eight hours, is higher than current noise limits set by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health for adults.

The study found that exposure to some of these devices may put infants at risk of hearing loss or cause damage to their auditory system.

Popularity of Sleep Machines

One of the most difficult tasks for any parent is getting their child to sleep through the night.  Several parenting websites and magazines have touted the benefits of sleep machines.  These machines have been marketed as a way for parents to get more sleep, and create sleeping routines that last beyond infancy.

The lead author for the study on sleep machines, Dr. Blake Papsin questioned “whether there could be something wrong with exposing developing infants to a steady, monotonous sound all night, instead of the varying sounds of the environment.”  Some findings through animal research found that “prolonged exposure to white noise” could change the way the brain processes sound.

How to Protect Your Child’s Hearing

Doctors behind the study offered a few recommendations for manufacturers and parents.  According to the Study, sleep machines can be used safely and parents should do the following:

• Play the sleep machine at a low volume
• Only leave the sleep machine on for a short period of time
• Put the sleep machine as far away as possible from your child, never placing it inside the crib or on the crib rail.

Always consult with your physician if you feel your child is suffering from hearing loss or some form of auditory damage.

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