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Recent research by scientists at the University of Toronto suggests that infant sleep machines (ISMs) may be dangerous to an infant's hearing. For years people have used ISMs to lull their baby to sleep with gentle and soothing sounds. However, researchers at the University of Toronto report that the maximum volume may emit decibel levels that are harmful to infants. The study consisted of 14 different models of sleep-inducing devices and it was found that at 30 centimeters away from the device, around the same location as the baby's head, the sound levels ranged between 68.8 dB to 92.9 dB. “We suggest that the consistent use of those devices raises concerns for increasing an infant's risk of noise-induced hearing loss,” researchers say.

Researchers do not dismiss ISMs entirely, but rather urge parents to proceed with caution. “The safe use of an ISM may be possible, but requires policy recommendations for manufacturers and recommendations for families that outline the parameters of their use,” researchers say.

A number of different actions can be taken in order to guarantee the safeguard of these potentially dangerous devices.

  1. create mandatory timers that automatically shut the machine off
  2. manufacturers should lower the maximum decibel levels
  3. manufacturers should be required to inform consumers of the potential hazards

Researchers suggest that parents who still want to use an ISM should place the device well away from their baby. Leaving the device at a low volume and turning it off after a short while could help, too.

Despite the recent research offering up analysis and data, some disagree with the researcher's warning. Brian J Fligor, ScD, director of diagnostic audiology at Children's Boston and an instructor at Harvard Medical School, doesn't think the results call for drastic action. Furthermore, Fligor believes the research paper failed to account for how the decibel levels will affect an infant.

Source: Hearing Health Matters