Is White Noise Bad For Babies? (Everything You Need To Know)

What is white noise, exactly? How is it made?

Why is white noise used for babies?

Is white noise safe for babies?

White noise is a type of background noise that is usually unobtrusive. Many people—babies and adults alike—find this soothing and comforting, and it’s often used to help improve sleep habits and patterns.

White noise can be made with the use of a fan or other similar item, or it may be played from a recording over a sound machine or even with an app on your smart phone. It’s often used for babies to help them sleep peacefully or calm down when they’re anxious.

However, some parents have concerns about whether or not white noise is really safe for babies. In this article, we’ll break down the use of white noise for babies and give you all the information you need to determine whether or not it’s right for your little one.

By the time you finish reading, you should be ready to make this decision for your child. Take your time and check out this information to help you choose.

3 Ways White Noise Can
Be Bad For Babies

1. White noise may damage your baby’s ears or hearing.

baby noise machine

Some studies have shown that it is possible white noise could have a negative impact on your baby’s hearing or ears. In one situation, fourteen different sound machines were tested and shown to make noise that was louder than is considered safe for adults—meaning it was much too loud for babies to be exposed to safely. While a short amount of time around this much noise might not be a problem for your baby, too much time could damage his or her hearing.

Newborn babies have even more specific considerations to keep in mind. These loud sounds may be far too noisy for newborns to be exposed to safely even for a short amount of time.

However, it’s important to keep in mind that no babies have ever actually been reported as suffering hearing damage related to white noise or sound machines. This is all simply speculation at this time.

2. White noise may cause more stress in your baby.

It is possible that white noise can stress babies or even cause auditory processing disorders. Keep in mind that there are no significant studies to show this, but it is enough of a concern that many parents avoid white noise for this reason anyway. Like hearing damage, there have also been no known reports of babies developing an auditory processing disorder related to exposure to white noise.

However, it is true that babies may become more stressed when they hear a repetitive sound they dislike. The quick fix for this, however, may simply be to change the sound you’re using on the sound machine and see if a different one will work better for your baby.

3. White noise may make your baby sleep poorly instead of helping sleep patterns.

baby sound machine

It is possible that a white noise machine could make your baby’s sleep more restless or cause your child to rely on the white noise machine for sleep at all times. Some babies—like adults—will be more bothered by hearing white noise than soothed. If this is true of your child, then white noise may not be the right option for him or her.

Some babies may become so reliant on having white noise to sleep to that they are unable to fall asleep without it. At home, this might not become a problem, but if you’re on vacation or even just out in public and it’s time for your baby’s nap, it can be hassle to get him or her to go to sleep without white noise in some situations.

Guidelines for Safe White Noise Use

As with anything for your child, it’s important to use your white noise machine safely to reduce risks. Keep the following tips in mind to help you use your white noise or sound machine (or app) appropriately for your child:

baby white noise machine
  • Always keep the sound machine turned as low as possible. As long as your child can hear it softly, this is loud enough. Do not turn the volume up all the way for a baby.
  • Place the machine as far away from your baby’s crib as possible. The further away the sound machine or white noise machine is from your baby, the less likely it is to cause harm to your little one’s hearing or disturb his or her sleep.
  • Do not leave the white noise machine on all night. Turn it off after your child has been asleep for about 15 minutes, or set it to a timer to turn off after a short amount of time.
  • Consider changing the sounds periodically if your baby will respond positively to this. Some babies dislike the change, but if your child will be alright with it, changing up the sounds can help prevent him or her from developing a reliance on one specific sound to be able to sleep well at night. This can help keep your baby from getting too used to the sound machine overall, too.
  • Always follow manufacturer’s recommendations for use. This is an important tip to keep in mind for any type of baby products, and sound machines (and apps) are no different. If the manufacturer recommends a certain method of use, always follow those guidelines.

Conclusion

What are some signs white noise could be affecting your baby in a bad way? Are there physical or behavioral changes you should be looking for? How do you know if you should take your baby to the doctor?

If your baby has stopped sleeping as restfully as he or she once did or if your child cries when you turn on the sound machine, this can be a good indicator that it’s distressing to your little one instead of soothing. You may also want to look for signs that your baby is more stressed or gets angry or upset more easily throughout the day after sleeping with a sound machine on at night, too.

In any situation, if you notice your child showing new negative behavioral or physical changes of any kind, it’s a good idea to take him or her to the doctor to have a checkup. There could always be something going on unrelated to the white noise, but only a pediatrician can tell you for sure.