With the banning of loud vacuum cleaners over 90 dB in the UK, this has me wondering about loud vacuum cleaners in general.
I hate loud vacuums, so much so I’ve written about it before.
I’m all for the banning of loud vacuum cleaners and wish the US would do the same. But what has me wondering the most is loud vacuum cleaners and how they affect babies hearing. I keep coming across so many interesting points that I want to write about it in this post.
Vacuum Noise Bad For Babies?
Note: I don’t claim to be a professional or even a doctor on this issue but it has me interested.
I always thought a loud vacuum could help a baby sleep because it creates the loud white noise they’re used to inside the womb. It’s common to hear that inside the womb it’s loud, some even say louder than any vacuum cleaner can get.
But What Is Too Loud?
There doesn’t seem to be much research that I can find that can answer the question completely on what is too loud for a baby. But there is plenty of what is too loud for an adult worker.
OSHA sets a limit for workers on an 8 hour day to be exposed to no more than 90 dB. They say if it’s increased by 5db then it cuts the time in half. To be on the safe side I wouldn’t go past 85 dB.
With many vacuum cleaners going above 85db this worries me.
The Real Issue
Even though these vacuums can be loud and I believe they should ban the loud ones, it’s not the real problem.
The real problem is how close the noises are to the baby. They make white noise machines that can get just as loud as vacuums, but many parents are putting them too close to the child.
Another point is the vacuum cleaners might be too close, or it’s too much at ear level with the child. The vacuum may not sound loud to you but when the output of the motor is at the same height as a crib on some upright vacuums this can be too loud.
When using a vacuum or a white noise machine to calm your baby, it might be best to use a decibel phone app to measure the dBs at different locations from the vacuum or white noise machine. Don’t forget to check heights too.
An Interesting Idea
From what I’ve seen, robot vacuums can be quieter than normal vacuums. Why this is interesting is that robot vacuums are low to the floor, are not that loud compared to the bigger manual vacuums, and they move around.
So why not use a robot vacuum?
When I think about it, in the womb you’ll have the loud noises, and it would make sense to have constantly changing tones due to daily routines that moms go through. Well, a robot vacuum keeps a constant vacuum noise while moving around the room to clean. Constant, but moving vacuum noises might be more ideal?
The biggest perk would be the robot vacuum cleaning the floor. This would help keep the room a little bit cleaner while also helping to be a white noise machine. Talk about killing two birds with one stone.
The only downside I can see with using a robot vacuum is that they probably won’t vacuum for as long as you need them to. But they do offer a helping hand to mom when she’s got other things to worry about other than vacuuming.
What Should You Do?
Many parents find the vacuum running or the white noise machine going to be the only way a baby will fall asleep. The trick is to keep the noise going for as long as you want them to sleep without it hurting them in the long run.
I would recommend downloading a Decibel App on your smartphone and see what noise level is emitted at different locations and heights. These apps may not be perfect so assume it’s louder than what it’s saying to be on the safe side.
Never place the vacuum or white noise machine near the child’s head. If you can, I would recommend putting it across the room and then measure the sound level you get with your phone where the baby sleeps.
I would also recommend checking out this great article where she breaks it down beautifully to show how bad vacuums sounds can be for your child. She even considers the height of the vacuum which is something that many people overlook.
Keep In Mind
With all the distractions in our daily lives don’t forget that your hearing may not be as sensitive as your child’s. With dings from our phones, Playing loud music when we were younger, and the loud background noise of the TV could have desensitized our ears.
This is why I recommend using those Decibel Meters for your phone as your hearing may be diminished without realizing it.
What About Vacuuming With The Baby?
Sometimes you have to vacuum the house with the baby in the other hand. Unless you’re doing extreme vacuum sessions of 4 hours or more, then it should be okay.
You should still check the decibel level of the vacuum before you start and place it at the location your child will rest on you. But when in doubt, ask your doctor.
To play it safe you can use Baby Ear Muffs like these here* to block out some of the sounds.
One Last Tip
You don’t need to buy the white noise makers or even use your vacuum cleaner. Vacuum cleaners can use a lot of electricity when running, and to some, it might be “worth it” to help your baby sleep, but you do have other options.
YouTube has many white noise videos for vacuums and much more. You could find a particular video that your baby might like more. The best part is that you can control the volume and the location of the speakers too. I still recommend placing the speakers on the other side of the room.
The only downside I can think of is the auto-play ads unless you have YouTube Red.
Benefits Of White Noise
Before I end this post, I do want to point out there are many advantages to white noise to help a baby sleep.
Poor infant sleep can lead to worn-out parents making simple and deadly mistakes. I know it sounds scary, but sleep deprivation can be scary especially when you’ve been worn out already from the pregnancy.
If you want to learn more about sleep deprivation after having a baby, then I recommend this post here.