Advanced search

To be terrified that I’ve damaged my daughter’s hearing?

(32 Posts)
Redolent Wed 10-Jun-20 23:33:20

DD is 16 months old and I’ve been using white noise to aid her in sleeping since birth. Not loud by any means, but it’s always been there in the background.

I had a conversation with my mum earlier who mentioned it critically (‘isn’t that annoying for both of you? Maybe it’s damaging?’) I batted away her questions and didn’t really entertain them, but I did some random searching afterwards, and came across this study from 2003:

Exposure to continuous white noise sabotages the development of the auditory region of the brain, which may ultimately impair hearing and language acquisition, according to researchers from the University of California, San Francisco.


Now I’m panicking and thinking I’ve damaged my daughter’s hearing/language acquisition for good sad She doesn’t have many words at all, which I’d just put down to her being raised in a bilingual household, and to her age of course. She doesn’t imitate sounds particularly well either, although she follows and understands most instructions very well. I don’t know, maybe I’m overthinking, but I just assumed white noise was something so many people, including myself, used for their children. It couldn’t possibly be harmful. I’d never read anything to suggest that - just to moderate the volume.

What do people think? What are your experiences with white noise?

OP’s posts: |
Leeeeeyaaa Wed 10-Jun-20 23:36:44

Myself and a friend used white noise. I’ve never heated anything bad about it to be honest. I wouldn’t worry Op, I’ve used it with mine & nobody’s ever said anything. If it was damaging they wouldn’t sell devices that have it such as slumber buddies. DS is 15 months and still has his slumber buddy

FaceOfASpink Wed 10-Jun-20 23:43:30

From the summary you posted it seems that the auditory processing centre in the brain might be affected and not hearing as such. So the ability to actually hear isn't damaged but the ability to process important speech sounds and therefore language might be impacted. Instead of worrying, focus on making sure your child gets enough access to speech sounds and language. Have lots of 1 to 1 face time with her where you make eye contact and baby talk with her. Sing to her. Say nursery rhymes. Play peek a boo. Name things and use the names in short sentences. Get speech sounds and language going. Play with toys that make sounds. ,

june2007 Wed 10-Jun-20 23:46:48

I think I would want to do some more investigating before making up my mind. But I just saw something with link to Tinnitus which would def make sense to me.

Redolent Wed 10-Jun-20 23:48:55

Yes you’re right, it’s not hearing so much that might be impacted, but language development/processing.

I’m yet to make up my mind but it’s one of those things that I did unthinkingly, having seen it recommended in so many sleep promotion articles, blogs etc. I guess I’m annoyed that I didn’t even look into it and just assumed it was safe. And maybe it still is.

OP’s posts: |
Isawthathaggis Wed 10-Jun-20 23:50:54

Here’s an experiment- for my first two I didn’t use white noise, but for my youngest twins I’m using Ollie the Owl quite a lot.
If they have any developmental issues we’ll know it was the owl and you’re quite right to be worried grin.

Honestly OP, a bilingual 16month old shouldn’t have many words. Even a mono-linguist (is that the right word?) wouldn’t have many words by 16months and not because of a little white noise.
I doubt you’re playing it very loud and I doubt you’re playing it for very long.
It’s so natural to worry about everything but I really do feel you can relax over this.

FaceOfASpink Wed 10-Jun-20 23:51:19

While you research, exposing your little one to plenty of speech and language sounds won't hurt

Redolent Wed 10-Jun-20 23:53:03


While you research, exposing your little one to plenty of speech and language sounds won't hurt

Yes thank you for your suggestions smile

OP’s posts: |
Justajot Thu 11-Jun-20 00:01:58

The study was on rats. Continuous white noise in the study probably means all day and night. If you are just using it for sleep, but giving a normal sound environment during waking hours then you aren't really doing the same thing.

Heartofglass12345 Thu 11-Jun-20 00:13:53

16 months is still young I wouldn't worry. I'm sure you talk to her and read to her all the time. My son didn't talk properly until he was 3! You'll get some parents saying they could have a conversation with their 10 month old baby (my mum included)
I think they are mis remembering lol

Owwlie Thu 11-Jun-20 00:19:55

I used white noise with my DD (who is now nearly 3) from really early on, I couldn’t sleep through her grunting noises otherwise and I’ve only just stopped using it to get her to sleep 3 weeks ago.

Her hearing is fine and according to the staff at her nursery her language is ahead, which was also mentioned by the health visitor at her 2 and a half year check. She’s always been read to a lot and being at nursery definitely helped as well, but there doesn’t seem to be any problem caused by the white noise for her. I’m currently using it with my newborn as well.

saraclara Thu 11-Jun-20 00:20:51

I used a white noise cassette tape (yes, it was that long ago!) every night with my first born. She was a very early talker (speaking sentences when the HV visited at 18 months, to check that she could speak five words) so it clearly didn't do her any harm.

Really, don't worry.

PanicOnTheStreets85 Thu 11-Jun-20 00:43:12

Oh @Redolent I think you've completely misunderstood that study.

They raised some rats in a sound deprivation chamber with constant exposure to white noise (all day and all night). It's not surprising that messed them up a bit! I assume during the day whilst your playing with your DD you're not playing loud white noise.

It doesn't suggest at all that a bit of white noise whilst sleeping is dangerous. Please do not worry and carry on with the white noise if it works for you.

sergeilavrov Thu 11-Jun-20 00:48:19

So the full article is found here.

It’s pretty important to say that these rats were exposed to white noise continuously - eg not just when asleep. After ten weeks of no white noise exposure, there was no significant difference between rats who were exposed and those who weren’t.

This is a fairly outdated experiment, as we have some natural experiment understanding to know what happens to human children. Low altitude drones fly over FATA and Waziristan in Pakistan, and we know that the low buzzing noise results in - setting aside trauma type incidents - some short term tinnitus issues. Many children in these areas are bilingual at the very least, and in my experience we have never received a complaint about language acquisition.

I’d just not rely on white noise all the time, as it can become a dependence and that’s a nightmare when travelling. Our kids struggle to sleep without air conditioner noise which is hard when we visiting family in the UK!

goingoverground Thu 11-Jun-20 00:58:23

The experiment used continuous white noise, ie 24/7, something which I believe is used as a form of torture in some countries... You aren't playing constant white noise to your DD, it's just for a short period of time while she falls asleep.

There has been research that speech can be delayed in children who are exposed to constant noise such as TV, radio, music, possibly because it is harder to pick out speech from background noise. I would suggest that the experiment you linked to is similar, the auditory region of the brain is slower to develop because the rats have constant background noise so other sounds don't stand out. I would guess that any other constant background noise would have a similar effect, not just white noise.

sergeilavrov Thu 11-Jun-20 01:57:59

@goingoverground White noise isn't used in enhanced interrogation as a technique in itself, but rather is played during detainee transportation to prevent communication between detainees. It's purely a practical matter. Noise is used in loud bursts as a means of creating sleep deprivation, but that noise is usually something with significant pitch changes and isn't played continuously otherwise it can become normalised and thus not fit for purpose. Examples include children's tv theme tunes, or screamo rock music. Sometimes, reports in the past have mischaracterised these elements as white noise, hence the confusion.

FourPillars Thu 11-Jun-20 02:30:50

Please don’t worry. The rats in the study you linked to were raised in constant white noise with no other auditory stimuli. That is completely different to your daughter’s acoustic environment.
If you are concerned about your child’s language development or hearing, why not see an audiologist? It is usual for bilingual children to show some delay in language development, particularly when exposed to different languages from the same people and in the same context. Evidence suggests that if one language is consistently used by the same people and the other language by others, then language development is less affected by exposure to multiple languages. Having said that though, there are excellent benefits to being raised multiligually.

Whatelsecouldibecalled Thu 11-Jun-20 02:37:02

My sister used white noise a lot to settle my niece. She is now two and a complete chatterbox. I don’t think she has been impaired in the slightest!!! I think it would be different if you played it continuously to get and never exposed her to language or anything else but I Assume you’re not doing that!

OnSilverStars Thu 11-Jun-20 02:50:53

I had no clue about this. My son has had white noise from birth at night. He's 2years and 2 months old. He speaks in full sentences and understands literary nearly everything. I wouldn't worry

Blondebakingmumma Thu 11-Jun-20 03:18:10

Take a breath and think about it critically. People who live in crowded cities have background traffic noise all the time. I doubt children raised in these cities have delayed language skills

allthewaterinthetap Thu 11-Jun-20 03:21:03

I have a bilingual child - he spoke later than normal, so don't worry!

Coyoacan Thu 11-Jun-20 04:18:44

Doesn't the background noise of a city count as white noise? I live in Mexico City and it can be quite strong, yet children still hear properly.

GirlCalledJames Thu 11-Jun-20 06:37:09

I use white noise with mine because otherwise they are woken by noise. I use rain sounds so it’s the same sound as raining outside.
They are growing up trilingually and hear me speaking a fourth language sometimes. The eldest was quite slow with language but within the milestones and constantly improving. She doesn’t like to use words until she knows exactly what they mean so she understands a lot more than she says.
The younger one is much further ahead as he is much freer in his language experiments. They share a room so have had the same exposure.
It’s the bilingualism. Don’t worry about it if she’s within the milestones.

zscaler Thu 11-Jun-20 06:44:04

I wouldn’t worry OP - it’s far from unusual for a child to only have a few words at 16 months, and that study was 1) on rats and 2) talking about continuous white noise exposure, not just a few hours at night.

It also says that once no longer exposed to the noise the rats’ brains matured normally into adulthood which suggests that even if it causes a delay to speech and hearing acquisition, it’s not causing permanent damage.

In likelihood your baby is developing as she should! Try not to worry about it, and just carry on practicing speech with her as you would normally.

NoIDontWatchLoveIsland Thu 11-Jun-20 06:52:12

As someone up thread said, dependence on it to sleep is prob bigger issue.

My sister dated a guy who couldn't sleep without a fan running, it annoyed her a lot.

Join the discussion

Registering is free, quick, and means you can join in the discussion, watch threads, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Get started »