It is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) that white noise machines be kept at a distance of at least 7 feet (200 centimeters) from a baby’s sleeping area and that the volume be turned down below the machine’s maximum volume setting. In general, the volume should not be any louder than 50 decibels, which is equivalent to the volume of a typical vacuum cleaner or hair dryer.
In 2014, a study of sound machines kicked up a lot of questions about white noise. Researchers tested 14 machines (marketed specifically for sleeping babies), placed 12 inches from the babies’ heads and cranked them to max volume. When they measured how much sound reached the baby, they found that 3 devices exceed 85 dB.
Does White Noise Damage a Baby’s Hearing?
The researchers warned that, if played at that intensity for 8 hours straight, that amount of noise (85 dB) would exceed safety standards and might reach a level that could hurt hearing. They advised: 1) moving machines as far away as possible, 2) playing them at 50 dB and 3) stopping the sound after the baby fell asleep
That advice may seem logical, but I believe it is wrong…and even dangerous. By reducing infant crying and boosting a baby’s (and mother’s) sleep, white noise may prevent many of the terrible problems triggered by these 2 stressors including postpartum depression, SIDS and child abuse. But it only works if it is loud enough!
How Loud Should White Noise Be?
As you can see in the figure below, white noise at 50 dB offers absolutely no benefit for your baby’s sleep. Sound doesn’t start boosting sleep until it gets to 60 to 65 dB.
Should White Noise Volume Be Adjusted?
Needless to say, don’t blast sound at the maximum volume…all night…right next to your baby’s head. However, loud sound for minutes (not hours) is super helpful for calming crying. And it’s a heck of a lot less trauma to your baby’s ears than her own crying!
Are White Noise Machines Safe for Babies?
The answer again, is YES. White noise machines benefit a baby by promoting sleep. However, it’s important to keep noise at a safe level for a baby and adults. If white noise machines produce sound above safe decibel levels, then they can be harmful. If you’re looking for a white noise machine that offers noise at a safe level, check out SNOObear. SNOObear is specially designed to help babies sleep…and it doubles as a cuddly lovey kids love!
Bottom line: When your baby cries, boost the sound–for several minutes–to the level of her cries. After she’s been asleep for 5 or 10 minutes, reduce the sound to the level of a soft shower, around 65 dB.
Learn more about the benefits of white noise.
If changing your baby’s white noise levels sounds like a hassle, you might want to try SNOO Smart Sleeper! It’s the only baby bassinet that automatically adjusts white noise levels—and reacts to your baby’s cries and delivers the right level to soothe her. The sound increases to match the level of fussing and decreases when she calms. And, all-night “rain-on-the-rooftop” sound helps reduce night wakings. Learn more.
ABOUT DR. HARVEY KARP
Dr. Harvey Karp, one of America’s most trusted pediatricians, is the founder of Happiest Baby and the inventor of the groundbreaking SNOO Smart Sleeper. After years of treating patients in Los Angeles, Dr. Karp vaulted to global prominence with the release of the bestselling Happiest Baby on the Block and Happiest Toddler on the Block. His celebrated books and videos have since become standard pediatric practice, translated into more than 20 languages and have helped millions of parents. Dr. Karp’s landmark methods, including the 5 S’s for soothing babies, guide parents to understand and nurture their children and relieve stressful issues, like new-parent exhaustion, infant crying, and toddler tantrums.
What Volume Should White Noise Be For Babies?
The ideal decibel level for your child’s white noise should be somewhere between 60 and 65. In this context, “sound level” refers to the volume of a running shower. You can test the decibel level of your child’s white noise using a number of different apps that you can download, and some of them are free while others cost money.
How Loud Should Hatch Sound Machine Be For Baby
The general consensus is that the maximum volume level for any sound machine should not exceed 65 decibels. You can determine this by downloading an app to your phone and then measuring the distance between your child’s bed and the app’s display. It is helpful to simulate the environment of the womb for younger babies by playing the music at a louder volume.