Sound Design

This blog references the on going research into the creation of a holistic sensory solution for newborn babies. This solution aims to overcome the sensory difference between cot and womb. Below is a discussion surrounding one of the five elements; womb-like sound.

As discussed in previous blogs, white noise has been consistently proven to aid with infant sleep. In an experimental study of newborns, 80% fell asleep within five minutes in response to white noise compared with only 25% who fell asleep spontaneously in the control group (Spencer et al 1990).

White noise, alongside other different kinds of natural ‘soft sounds,’ such as the sounds waves breaking, an adult’s heartbeat, a waterfall or the rain can be most effective when used on young babies. "Babies become accustomed to the soundscape of the womb — the steady thump of mum’s heartbeat, the whooshing of blood through her blood vessels, the rumbling of her stomach and, most importantly, the tones of her voice filtered through tissues, bones and fluid." (Cornell 2016) these replica soft sounds can provide a similar soothing tone for the newborn to focus and relax to.

A few of the notable current solutions adopted by parents are, driving your child in the car, (Reporter, 2012) putting a hair dryer on or playing the sound from your mobile phone app. (Woods, K, 2016) Sounds similar to the videos seen below:

However, "Mobile Phones should not be used in close proximity to babies and small children as they are more susceptible to radiation."(Company, 2016) So a solution or device separate from the phone is required, maybe still utilising the phone's apps with Bluetooth or Wi-Fi connectivity?

It is also worth considering the volume these devices can output, how loud should this white noise or soft sound be? "The womb is deafeningly loud. It is just slightly less loud than a lawnmower. Loud is normal to a baby. Life outside the womb is uncomfortably quiet. White noise sounds like “home” to a baby." (Dubief, 2011) In fact studies by the American journal of perinatology found internal womb sound to be 72 to 88 db (Smith et al., 1990) a further study at The Children's Hearing Institute in New York has given a specific recommendation for continuous sound"levels should be set at a volume of 75 decibels, as this is safe for continuous sound". (Company, 2016) This is also discussed within the research provided by Gro, a company who have created the Gro-hush a handheld device that plays 10-minute intervals of white noise at 75 decibels - perfect.

As previously discussed "Babies become accustomed to the soundscape of the womb ... most importantly, the tones of their mothers voice." (Cornell 2016) therefore could there be a case for continuing the environmental sound of the mother's surroundings post birth? Products such as the; Motorola MBP26 Digital Video Baby Monitor already has two-way communication technology that lets you keep connected to your baby (ReviewsGuide, 2016) However this product will go one step further and become a wearable device that can stream live sound from mother to baby (Snuggle), giving the background hum baby considers normal. Could this device also pick up on a live heartbeat that is again fed straight into the Snuggle sound system?

Within prototyping I’ve experimented with different sources of sound output and finalised on a small handheld Bluetooth speaker I can wirelessly connect to an iPhone, allowing me to demonstrate the acoustic properties of the foam mattress. Should this product go into manufacture the intention is for the speaker system to have many further functions beyond playing white noise. By having an integral intercom system from mother back to baby, as seen in the baby monitor documented above the background noise baby is used to would continue, as well as a live heartbeat feed being picked up from the parents device (should they choose to wear it) If not there will be a feature to play a pre-recorded heart beat sound. The speaker will have wireless speaker technology that slots within the foam base. This integral intercom system will then be connected to an integrated app that is downloadable alongside the purchase of the Snuggle. This app will allow the parents to not only remotely chose the sounds they play to their infant but also allow them to phase it out over the coming months. The product would need to remain battery-powered with the potential USB charging port, again looking at current products available on the market this is well-established technology and I’m confident this project is achievable.

Having said all this, the Snuggle speaker system, would not look to replicate the current baby monitors for ‘baby to mother’ communication. As they are quickly adapting to included video this would require a relocation/ redesign of the current product or a potentially a secondary unit.


Bibliography

Cornell, C. (2016) Baby’s view of the womb - today’s parent. Available at: http://www.todaysparent.com/pregnancy/being-pregnant/babys-view-of-the-womb/ (Accessed: 21 July 2016).

Company, T.G. (2016) Frequently asked questions - the Gro company. Available at: http://gro.co.uk/frequently-asked-questions/#about-the-gro-hush (Accessed: 4 September 2016).

Dubief, A. (2011) Why babies Love White noise. Available at: https://www.preciouslittlesleep.com/why-babies-love-white-noise/ (Accessed: 7 September 2016).

Reporter, D.M. (2012) New parents cover more than 1, 300 miles a year driving their children to sleep (and it costs them £547 in fuel). Available at: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2225590/New-parents-drive-1-300-miles-year-driving-children-sleep-spending-547-petrol.html (Accessed: 6 August 2016).

ReviewsGuide, B. (2016) Exposing the best Motorola baby monitors | quality reviews. Available at: http://www.babymonitorreviewsguide.co.uk/motorola-baby-monitors/ (Accessed: 4 September 2016).

Spencer, J.A., Moran, D.J., Lee, A. and Talbert, D. (1990) ‘White noise and sleep induction’, Archives of Disease in Childhood, 65(1), pp. 135–137. doi: 10.1136/adc.65.1.135.

Smith, C., Satt, B., Phelan, J. and Paul, R. (1990) ‘Intrauterine sound levels: Intrapartum assessment with an intrauterine microphone’, American journal of perinatology., 7(4), pp. 312–5.az

Woods, K. (2016) ‘Meeting with 2 new mums’. Interview with .