Incubators may harm premature babies’ hearing, study finds

To the premature babies, The incubator it is a lifesaver, but its consequences can last a lifetime. Now, a team of scientists from the University of Vienna (Austria) has discovered that while incubators muffle some sounds, they amplify others, which can Damage O hearing of babies.

Although the effects of a noisy environment in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) had already been studied, the same had not been done with the It is made of the incubators in which premature babies spend their first weeks or even months.

A noisy environment can cause delays at the acquisition of language.

Many studies have shown that the NICU is a noisy environment and that babies who go there have higher rates of hearing impairment, which can lead to delays at the acquisition of language.

In this work, published in the scientific journal ‘Frontiers in Pediatrics’, the researchers wanted to know why there are so many more premature babies with hearing loss.

“We believe that what we measure in our studies may be one of the Causes main. However, to know how to protect premature babies from such noise levels, accurate information about the environment is needed,” said one of the research leaders, Christoph Reuter.

O sounds in incubators are very less damped

premature babies experience noise in the incubators very different from the uterine environment. Amniotic fluid muffles sound from outside the uterus, and most sounds heard in the uterus are low-frequency, with almost no loud noises.

On the contrary, the sounds in incubators are very less damped, with many high-frequency components and sudden noise. Although recommended noise limits have been established, they are often exceeded, especially when incubators are being handled or opened.

That to study focused on various real-life noises and their levels, as well as their tonal characteristics, with two main objectives. First, describe the NICU and incubator environment; second, to raise awareness by presenting interactive material from real situations.

For investigate sound quality and its impact on newborns, the team placed a simulation dummy inside an incubator equipped with measurement microphones at the Center for Pediatric Simulation at the Medical University of Vienna.

HE recorded different sounds from the NICU, both from inside and outside the incubator, and analyzed to determine how they have been modified by the incubator. Both weighted decibel levels (which are often used to measure noise in similar contexts because they are adjusted to take into account the human hearing range) and unweighted decibel levels were evaluated.

The team found that the incubator tended to muffle most sounds, but also certified sounds will resonate inside its cavity, creating a magnifying effect and raising the noise level up to 28 decibels.

O sounds that occurred inside the incubator or that involved its manipulation were much more stronger than those produced outside, but were not perceived with the same intensity by individuals outside the incubator.

“Because they are closed boxes, incubators usually have a resonance inherent around 100 Hz, that is, in this range the sounds inside the incubator are exceptionally powerful. Outside noises inside the incubator sound more tonal, boomy and muffled, as well as less harsh or noisy, due to this resonance,” explained Vito Giordano of the Medical University of Vienna and lead author of the study.

In any case, the researchers point out that their results “cannot be generalized to all incubators available on the market”. “In addition, we took the measurements in a simulation room under ideal conditions and not in everyday conditions, where the sound generated by the environment would be even louder,” said Reuter.