A midwife once said that babies might sleep camly in the loudest environment (radio or tv sound, party, etc.), but later they are "reprocessing" all this input and will be unsettled or even won't sleep in the evening.

I wonder if there are studies about negative effects of background noise on newborn babies, e.g. if

  • the baby is awake and in the background there is the sound of a TV (but the baby can not see it)
  • the baby is sleeping in a room where there is the sound of a TV (but the baby can not see it)
  • 1
    Really interesting question. Can't wait for someone to provide insight!
    – Swati
    May 17, 2012 at 16:30
  • I like when my kids fall asleep with audible background noise because it means I don't feel like I have to be a ninja in my own house while they're sleeping.
    – afrazier
    May 18, 2012 at 19:26

4 Answers 4


There's probably a study to support whatever theory there is you want to believe in. For this particular one about tv, here's one: http://www.parentdish.com/2009/06/08/study-finds-television-noise-delays-development/

I personally don't think it is true. But then I don't want to argue with statistics. However, the reason for my argument is that when the babies are asleep, they are usually in a pretty heavy state of sleep. The brain just blocks out pretty much everything. When my 2-month-old is asleep, it doesn't matter how loud and crazy her other siblings are (fighting, arguing or just playing), she will sleep right through it all. And the same goes to tv noises. She'd be sleeping on her swing with back facing the tv while the tv is on (which is somewhat rare during school days) and still won't skip a beat sleeping. ;)

I brought up three other kids this way. And all of them are doing just fine in school even as 2nd language learners. They keep up just fine and even excel with one or two other subjects.

The truth is, it all depends on what you do consistently all the time, not just "while the tv is one when she's asleep"... it's also the times when she's awake and if that she's stimulated by having someone talking to her... etc. And just keep doing it. She will be just fine.

What many studies don't do is taking other conditions under which these kids may have been brought up in -- are the families all from the same social-economic background? Do the parents have equivalent educational backgrounds, temperaments and enough time to spend with the kids... etc. Think about it -- in an environment where the tv is on all the time, is it possible that maybe the parents are too busy looking after the kids in general (hence parking the kids in front of the tv), and by doing so may have indirectly delayed the growth? But it's not necessarily the tv's fault... but rather the parents did not have the time to stimulate the kids consistently. And there are many factors besides just tv.

My 2 cents.

  • 1
    The "pretty heavy state of sleep" part applies only to some parts of the sleep cycle. My little one has a long state of light sleep every 45 minutes and during daytime sleep pretty much always wakes up at some point during it.
    – justkt
    May 21, 2012 at 22:04
  • what about hearing. if the tv is turned too loud for the parent by the grand parent, wont that hurt the child/ babies ear drums? i hear tv at level 10, my folks on 19 of 30. so i dont send my kids in there room when its on
    – tgkprog
    May 28, 2013 at 19:28

I have never heard of this, either as "received knowledge" or with any data to back it up.


I've raised three highly successful adults from infancy. In theory, this current "concern about future hearing and cognitive ability being compromised by exposure to tv" makes sense, especially when backed by studies about decibel levels. etc. But my sense of logic tells me there are many other factors to consider. I wonder what the effect high-pitched screaming has on the numerous sleeping infants who are constantly exposed to such sounds at childcare facilities. Barking dogs, the irratic playful screams & squeals of children playing certainly reach decibel levels equal to whatever conscientious parents would ever expose their babies to as "background tv sounds". Even the sound of a tea kettle reaching the boiling point each time it is used throughout the day, honking car horns, police sirens, train whistles, screeching birds, or car breaks, sneezing, snoring (for Goodness sakes, this may reach the highest decibel level of all these things combined in some cases) .....Are we to somehow eliminate all these sounds from our infants' lives because they are a potential cause for delay in speech and word recognition? Yikes ! Good luck with that, new parents.

If however, the effort is made to avoid using tv as a babysitter, or in place of talking with or reading to, or simply playing with your baby, then the point is well made. It is nothing new to the goal new parents have of doing the very best they can, in all ways regarding their new babies.

I see tv as just one of many sources of amusement (from the Latin "away from thinking") which can certainly be a wonderfully relaxing way for new parents to avoid obsessing about their babies and allow themselves the healthy choice to spend time while Baby is sleeping , simply "chilling".


Coincidentally, we watched tv with our 6 week old twins last night for about 3 hours. They seemed to completely ignore the two police procedurals and mythbusters, all had explosions. No noticable changes in either's eating or sleeping habits overnight. UPDATE: Both had at least one period where they slept an hour longer than normal.

Neither one had an awake-but-not-eating (checking out the world) session during this time. If awake, they were focused on food.

We do not make a habit of this, of course.

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