Tuesday, March 4th, 2014
Some infant sleep machines, which produce sounds that are intended to soothe babies to sleep, may, if set at their highest volumes, damage babies’ hearing, according to new research published in the journal Pediatrics. More from The New York Times:
Infant sleep machines emit white noise or nature sounds to drown out everyday disturbances to a baby’s sleep. The machines, sometimes embedded in cuddly stuffed animals, are popular gifts at baby showers and routinely recommended by parenting books and websites.
Some sleep experts advise parents to use these noisemakers all night, every night, to ensure the best rest for a newborn. Many parents say their babies become so used to the sounds of rainfall or birds that they will not nap without them.
Researchers at the University of Toronto evaluated 14 popular sleep machines at maximum volume and found they produced between 68.8 to 92.9 decibels at 30 centimeters, about the distance one might be placed from an infant’s head. Three exceeded 85 decibels, the workplace safety limit for adults on an eight-hour shift for accumulated exposure as determined by National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. One machine was so loud that two hours of use would exceed workplace noise limits.
At 100 centimeters, all the machines tested were louder than the 50-decibel limit averaged over an hour set for hospital nurseries in 1999 by an expert panel concerned with improving newborn sleep and their speech intelligibility.
“These machines are capable of delivering noise that we think is unsafe for full-grown adults in mines,” said Dr. Blake Papsin, the senior author of the paper and the chief otolaryngologist at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. The study was published in the journal Pediatrics. Dr. Papsin got the idea for this study after a parent brought a portable white noise machine to the hospital that sounded as roaring as a carwash.
“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,” said 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.
Safe use is possible, the study’s authors suggest. “Farther away is less dangerous, a lower volume is better and shorter durations of time, all things that deliver less sound pressure to the baby,” Dr. Papsin said.
Image: Sleeping newborn, via Shutterstock
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Wednesday, November 27th, 2013
Parents, particularly the parents of teenagers, are not as aware and vocal about the dangerous effects of prolonged exposure to loud music, according to a new study conducted by researchers at Penn State University. As a result, teens are at elevated risk of long-term hearing problems. More from Reuters:
One in eight American kids and teenagers – or more than 5 million – has a type of hearing loss that usually stems from overexposure to loud noises, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Parents can help prevent much of that hearing loss, the researchers said.
For the new study, they collected Internet survey responses from more than 700 parents of teenage children.
Almost 70 percent of the parents had not spoken with their child about noise exposure, mainly because they thought the actual risk of hearing damage was low.
But almost an equal number reported being willing to limit time listening to music and access to other excessively noisy situations to protect their teenager’s hearing, according to results published in JAMA Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery.
On the whole, parents seemed willing to take steps to protect their kids, but often underestimated the risks of too much loud music.
“I think it just means that we have work to do in terms of raising awareness,” Sekhar said.
More educated parents and those with younger teens were most likely to be willing to take precautions with their kids, like limiting music time, limiting access to noisy situations or insisting on protective measures like earplugs.
Image: Teenager listening to loud music, via Shutterstock
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Tuesday, August 27th, 2013
Intriguing new research suggests that your baby is listening closely to what you say—even before she’s born. Finnish scientists found that babies in utero not only hear sounds around them, but also can detect subtle differences in words, and recognize those differences after birth.
More on the study from NBC News:
Researchers at the University of Helsinki in Finland looked at 33 moms-to-be, and examined their babies after birth. While pregnant, 17 mothers listened at a loud volume to a CD with two, four minute sequences of made-up words (“tatata” or “tatota”, said several different ways and with different pitches) from week 29 until birth.
The moms and babies heard the nonsense words about 50 to 71 times. Following birth, the researchers tested the all 33 babies for normal hearing and then performed an EEG (electroencephalograph) brain scan to see if the newborns responded differently to the made-up words and different pitches.
Babies who listened to the CD in utero recognized the made-up words and noticed the pitch changes, which the infants who did not hear the CD did not, the researchers found. They could tell because their brain activity picked up when those words were played, while babies who didn’t hear the CD in the womb did not react as much.
“We have known that fetuses can learn certain sounds from their environment during pregnancy,” Eino Partanen, a doctoral student and lead author on the paper, said via email.
“We can now very easily assess the effects of fetal learning on a very detailed level—like in our study, [we] look at the learning effects to very small changes in the middle of a word.”
This paper does more than simply find that babies in utero can hear; it shows that babies can detect subtle changes and process complex information.
Image: Mother and ultrasound picture, via Shutterstock
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