Has your sleep suffered ever since the little one came along? If you are debating about getting a sleep machine to help your child sleep (so that you can sleep) think again. Or perhaps you already use one and are alarmed by the new research, which suggests that sleep machines can actually harm your child’s hearing. We help you take an informed decision.
How Sleep Machines Work
A sleep machine is a device that helps people with sleeping disorders to sleep well. They are also increasingly used for helping infants and children sleep peacefully, without disturbing their parents through the night. A sleep machine works by producing a low volume noise that is quite neutral, such as falling water or a mild breeze. Some machines offer more options such as crashing waves, a crackling fireplace or the sound of crickets. A sleep machine is designed so that the noise is not distracting. It also masks other sounds from the surroundings, thus creating a pleasant environment for you or your child to sleep in. Many sleep machines also allow you to adjust the volume level and the frequency of noise till you find what works for you best. It can also be programmed to power-off after a certain period of time.
A recent report published in the journal Pediatrics has suggested that the regular use of sleep machines can potentially increase the risk of noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) in infants. The study looked at 14 brands of sleep machines and found that the maximum sound levels produced by them were beyond the safe levels for adults, let alone children. Some of the machines are capable of producing noise levels similar to a blender running just 3 feet away, while others produce noise that surpassed allowable limits for infants in hospital nurseries. An infant’s ear canal is smaller and is still developing compared to that of an adult. Constant exposure to high decibels of noise can hamper auditory development in children. Admittedly, the link between sleep machines and hearing loss is theoretical and its actual effect has not been tested. Yet the study sounds out a cautionary note that cannot be ignored.
Do you really need a sleep machine for your child to fall asleep? Something as simple as a whirring fan in the summer and your trusty heater in the winter produce low levels of sound that can lull your child to sleep. You can also try playing some background music at a low volume – classical music such as that of Mozart and Bach has been known to be soothing. This strategy has the added advantage of introducing your child to different genres of music. If you absolutely have to use a sleep machine, make sure that the volume is adjusted to the lowest level. Also, do not keep the device very close to your baby’s crib or cot; it has to be at least a foot away, if not at the other end of the nursery. Buy a device that comes with a timer so that it automatically shuts down after 30 or 60 minutes, thus cutting down the exposure levels.
If you feel that your or your child’s hearing has been at risk, it’s a good idea to get a hearing test done. Click here to book a free hearing test at your nearest Leightons Hearing Care branch.