Researcher calls for changes to auditory environment for preemies in neonatal care centers

February 15, 2016 by Bob Yirka, Medical Xpress report
baby, infant, newborn
Image: Wikimedia Commons

(Medical Xpress)—Amir Lahav, an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, gave a presentation at this year's meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science recently, outlining what he described as premature babies being put into 'dungeon' incubators as they mature in hospital intensive care units—he believes the experience leads to learning disabilities for such children.

Lahav described experiments he and his colleagues have carried out where mothers of were asked to submit to recordings and then to allow for speakers to be placed inside of incubators to play those recordings to mimic the sounds (voice, heartbeat, etc.) a fetus would have heard had he or she been still inside the uterus up till the time they would have been born at term. Lahav reported that those babies had a larger auditory cortex at discharge than other preemies that were not exposed to the recordings and that they weighed more—they also more clearly responded to auditory cues, particularly from women.

The current common practice, he explained, is to place in an incubator that not only keeps them warm, but protects them against infections and other ailments, which is good. The problem come about when the preemie is put into an environment that ignores the growing brain—the brain during that time is developing very fast, he notes, and one of the things it is learning about is sound processing. In the absence of a steady heart beat, or the sound of a mother talking, or singing, or the myriad other noises that a fetus still inside the womb would naturally hear during a pregnancy, the brain doesn't have a chance to grow in a way that allows it to learn how to process such sounds. The result, he notes, is an increased rate of learning disabilities for babies born prematurely, particularly in auditory areas.

Lahav points out the stark contrast between the warm and safe womb atmosphere, and the sterile environment inside of an incubator where a preemie will hear nothing but the whir of a fan for hours on end, or on occasion, muffled voices from doctors or nurses. That needs to change, he concludes.

Explore further: Sound of mother's voice in womb may aid fetal brain growth

More information: Hospital Noise and Babies' Brains: Evidence from Premature Newborns, … gram/Paper16662.html

Related Stories

Sound of mother's voice in womb may aid fetal brain growth

February 24, 2015
(HealthDay)—Babies may get a brain boost in the womb when they hear the voices and heartbeats of their mothers, a new study suggests.

Noise harder on children than adults, hinders how they learn

February 13, 2016
From the cacophony of day care to the buzz of TV and electronic toys, noise is more distracting to a child's brain than an adult's, and new research shows it can hinder how youngsters learn.

Mom's voice may improve the health of premature babies

March 8, 2012
When babies are born prematurely, they are thrust into a hospital environment that while highly successful at saving their lives, is not exactly the same as the mother's womb where ideal development occurs. The Neonatal Intensive ...

Babies may remember words heard before birth, research finds

August 26, 2013
(HealthDay)—If you feel like talking to your fetus in the womb, a new study suggests you should: The research finds that babies develop a memory of words they hear frequently before they are born.

ADHD risk rises for each week a preemie is born early

August 24, 2015
(HealthDay)—The more premature a child is born, the higher the likelihood of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), according to a recent Finnish study.

Brain differences in premature babies who later develop autism

December 21, 2015
Extremely premature babies run a much higher risk of developing autism in later childhood, and even during the neonate period differences are seen in the brains of those who do. This according to a new study by researchers ...

Recommended for you

Phone-addicted teens are unhappy, study finds

January 22, 2018
Happiness is not a warm phone, according to a new study exploring the link between adolescent life satisfaction and screen time. Teens whose eyes are habitually glued to their smartphones are markedly unhappier, said study ...

Baby brains help infants figure it out before they try it out

January 17, 2018
Babies often amaze their parents when they seemingly learn new skills overnight—how to walk, for example. But their brains were probably prepping for those tasks long before their first steps occurred, according to researchers.

NeuroNext biomarker study explores natural history of infantile-onset SMA

January 9, 2018
Research led by The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center to define the natural history of infantile-onset spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) has been "critical" to accelerate the development of effective therapies and hasten ...

No link between childhood lead levels, later criminality

December 27, 2017
(HealthDay)— Exposure to higher levels of lead during early childhood can affect neurological development—but does that mean affected kids are doomed to delinquency?

Early puberty in girls may take mental health toll

December 26, 2017
(HealthDay)—A girl who gets her first menstrual period early in life—possibly as young as 7—has a greater risk for developing depression and antisocial behaviors that last at least into her 20s, a new study suggests.

Technology not taking over children's lives despite screen-time increase

December 21, 2017
With children spending increasing amounts of time on screen-based devices, there is a common perception that technology is taking over their lives, to the detriment and exclusion of other activities. However, new Oxford University ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.