Intensive care incubators may give a life but can also leave a premature baby hearing impaired.
A new study published in Frontiers in Pediatrics has attributed this to the resonation of sounds within the incubators. Researchers from Vienna, Hamburg, Munich, and Osnabruck, in their study, said they examined the impact of incubators, which they discovered were an overlooked component of the soundscape surrounding babies during their NICU stay.
“The motivation of our multidisciplinary research team concerns the question: why many more premature babies suffer hearing impairments,” said corresponding author Dr. Christoph Reuter. “We believe that what we have measured in our studies could be a leading cause. However, to understand how to protect premature infants from such noise levels, precise environmental information is needed.”
The noise experienced by premature babies in incubators is vastly different from the environment they would have experienced in the uterus. The amniotic fluid would have muffled outside sounds, with only low-frequency noises being heard. In contrast, incubators have many high-frequency noises and abrupt sounds, which can be harmful to babies. Despite recommended noise limits being in place, they are often exceeded, particularly when handling or opening incubators.
Dr. Matthias Bertsch from the University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna, a co-author of the study, explained: “Our study focused on various real-life noises and their levels as well as on their timbral characteristics, with two main purposes.
“Firstly, describing the NICU and incubator environment; secondly, providing awareness by presenting interactive material of real-life situations.”