Our prime concern in our roles as parents is shielding our children from harm. This objective becomes all the more critical in our noisy, modern world, particularly when preserving their hearing. This is where the importance of baby headphones takes center stage.

Yet, how can you be confident that the noise levels in baby headphones are safe for your precious little one? In this blog post, we delve into the intricate subject of noise levels in baby headphones and guide you in picking the best pair for your child.

Decoding Noise Reduction Ratings (NRR)

Noise Reduction Ratings, or NRRs, are the universally recognized standard for measuring the sound level that hearing protection devices can effectively block. Carefully controlled laboratory tests determine these ratings and indicate how much noise reduction a device can offer. The NRR is expressed in decibels, and a higher NRR number indicates greater effectiveness at noise reduction. For example, a device with an NRR of 30 will block out more noise than an NRR of 20.

It's important to understand that the NRR does not directly equate to the number of decibels reduced. For instance, a hearing protection device with an NRR of 20 doesn't mean it reduces the noise level by 20 decibels in a real-world setting. Environmental factors and improper fitting can reduce the effectiveness of the device. The NRR serves as a guideline to compare the noise reduction potential of different products.

For baby headphones, an NRR of 20 to 22 decibels is common, which indicates they can lessen the noise level by 20 to 22 decibels. This reduction is substantial enough to safeguard your baby's hearing from loud sounds.

Defining a Safe NRR for Baby Headphones

Identifying a safe Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) for baby headphones is a grey area, as there are currently no specific standards that are universally agreed upon. Nevertheless, most baby headphones on the market are engineered to offer an NRR ranging from 20 to 22 decibels. This range is considered safe and effective for minimizing noise exposure in young children.

This NRR range means these headphones can reduce ambient noise levels by 20 to 22 decibels. To put this into perspective, the sound of normal conversation typically measures around 60 decibels. With baby headphones featuring an NRR of 22, the noise level reaching your baby's ears would be reduced to about 38 decibels, comparable to the quiet rustle of leaves.

Understanding the Acceptable Decibel Levels for Infants

Very young children and babies are at greater risk from the harmful impacts of excessive noise exposure. Their ear canals are not entirely developed, making a baby's auditory mechanism more sensitive than an adult's. Therefore, it's critical to avoid noise exposure and create a safe environment for them. The general guideline suggests that babies should not be exposed to noise levels exceeding 60 decibels.

The noise level recommended for hospital nurseries is even lower, set at 50 dB. For context, a quiet conversation lies between 50 and 55 dB, and an alarm clock registers at 80 dB. Sound, however, is more complicated than it appears. It's measured in decibels, a logarithmic scale rather than a linear one. This indicates that a 100-decibel sound is twice as loud as a 90-decibel sound. Another vital aspect to bear in mind is exposure duration. Safe decibel levels for babies also hinge on their noise exposure duration.

Short-term exposure to excessive noise levels can be deemed safe if confined to a few minutes. For instance, home appliances like vacuum cleaner, which operates between 60-80 dB, won't pose a risk to your baby if exposure doesn't exceed 5-10 minutes. However, Avoid exposure over a long period. for your child's safety.

Noise Levels and Baby Sleep

Babies can be particularly susceptible to loud noises when they are asleep. A safe decibel level recommended for babies' sleep is between 50-60 decibels, also the suggested noise limit for infants in hospital nurseries.

Exposure to higher decibel levels can adversely affect babies' sleep, potentially impacting their sleep quality, sleep patterns, and overall development.

The Role of White Noise Machines

White noise machines have emerged as a popular solution among many parents for ensuring their babies sleep soundly. White noise is a blend of sounds obscuring other sounds, such as household noise or traffic. These machines play soothing sounds like beach sounds, rain sounds, or lullabies to promote sleep and block out disruptive noise.

However, one potential downside of white noise machines is that they can exceed safe decibel levels for babies. Studies have shown that some white noise machines can reach decibel levels of 85 dB, surpassing the safe decibel level for babies of 50-60 dB.

The Importance of Protecting Your Baby's Hearing

According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), exposure to loud noises can cause permanent hearing damage. This damage isn't only caused by prolonged exposure to loud noises; even short-term exposure can potentially lead to hearing loss.

Steps to Protect Your Children's Hearing

Now that we've established safe decibel levels for babies, let's explore some measures to protect your children's hearing regardless of age.

To avoid the damaging effects of excessive noise levels, here are some strategies:

  • Teach children to avoid loud noises, no matter where they are.
  • Limit the time children spend engaging in noisy activities.
  • Limit the time children listen to loud music.
  • Conduct regular hearing tests, either at a specialized doctor's clinic or using home tests.
  • Ensure the children wear appropriate hearing protection when attending concerts or sporting events.

Let's delve a little deeper into some specific strategies for protecting your children's hearing:

Choosing Toys That Do Not Exceed 80-85 Db

Loud toys might be popular among children, but their high decibel levels can be harmful, particularly since children tend to keep them close to the ear. To keep the noise level under control, you can test the toys with a sound level meter or a reasonable level meter app to ensure that the decibel level stays under 80-85 dB. If that's impossible, consider removing the batteries from overly loud toys.

Avoiding Toys That Have Sirens or Make Popping Sounds

Toys that emit sirens or popping sounds can be especially harmful, as they can produce noise levels as high as 150 dB, the same sound level as a jet taking off, and can lead to severe damage like eardrum ruptures.

Therefore, babies should limit the toy noise level to 60 dB, while the limit can be increased to 70 dB for toddlers.

Controlling Noise Machine Volume

Noise machines, though helpful, can get as loud as 85 dB, which is not a safe decibel level for babies, significantly if the exposure is prolonged. If you use a white noise machine to help your baby sleep, keep the volume reasonably low, preferably under 60 dB. Also, position the noise machine safely from the crib and try not to run it continuously.

Using Ear Muffs For Babies And Young Children

If there's no way to avoid exposing a baby or a child to loud noise, consider hearing protection for their safety. A wide range of options are available for children-sized earmuffs and noise-canceling headphones that can help keep their hearing safe.

Remember to avoid earplugs, which can pose a choking hazard for young children.

Choosing the Right Pair of Baby Headphones

When choosing baby headphones, prioritize ones with a high NRR rating to block out loud noises effectively. Additionally, ensure they are comfortable and safe for your baby to wear. It's recommended to avoid exposing babies to continuous noises above 85 decibels.


Noise levels in baby headphones are a critical aspect to consider. High NRR ratings can significantly reduce the noise reaching your baby's ears, protecting their hearing. As parents, we must shield our children from harmful elements, including managing the noise levels they are exposed to. By selecting the right pair of baby headphones, you can safeguard your little one's hearing from harm, ensuring a safe and healthy environment for their growth.

Frequently Ask Questions

What noise level is safe for babies?

The World Health Organization recommends that the noise level around a baby should not exceed 50 decibels, which is the noise level of a quiet, suburban household. Very young children have sensitive ears, and exposure to loud noises can result in noise-induced hearing loss. Consider using a sound level meter app if you need more clarification about noise levels.

What is a safe decibel level for toddlers' headphones?

Many parents might not realize it, but very young children are at a greater risk of hearing damage from loud sounds. As per the World Health Organization, noise exposure from headphones should be limited to volumes no greater than 85 decibels. You can often find 'kid-safe' headphones on the market that automatically restrict the book to this level.

What decibel level is suitable for baby white noise?

White noise machines can benefit babies' sleep patterns, but ensuring that the sound isn't too loud is crucial. The volume on a white noise machine should be no louder than 50 decibels. This volume is as loud as a soft shower or a quiet conversation at home. The device should also be placed at least arm's length away from the baby's crib to protect your little one's hearing.

How loud should a baby sound machine be?

A baby sound machine should not be louder than 50 decibels. This helps to prevent potential hearing problems. The device should be placed away from the crib, not directly in it, as a precaution against noise exposure and a potential choking hazard.

Should you use noise-canceling headphones on babies?

Using noise-canceling headphones on babies, such as baby earmuffs, can protect babies' hearing, especially in loud environments like sporting events, drag races, or attending concerts. However, you should ensure they are designed for babies or young children. They should be lightweight, not too tight, and must not penetrate the ear canal. Brands like Muffy Baby are specially designed to fit a child's head from a young age and grow as the child grows.