Compared to babies not receiving any music therapies, babies who did showed more positive health effects such as better sleeping and feeding patterns. Those exposed to the ocean disc sounds experienced improved blood-oxygen levels and quiet-alert states. Additionally, parents' perception of stress in the NICU environment significantly decreased with the interventions, the study said.
"Many NICUs are noisy, or people put on random lullabies that are recorded," Loewy said. "What we're saying is, it's not just any old lullaby that's recorded, it's the power of the parent's voice synchronized therapeutically . . . and the other two sounds that can have a therapeutic benefit."
Dr. Joseph Awadalla, a neonatologist at Redlands Community Hospital, in California, agreed that such therapy helps premature infants thrive. He noted that womb-like sounds have been used in some hospitals for at least the last 20 years to soothe and relax babies.
"I'm aware that not all the [NICUs] do this kind of therapy," Awadalla said. "There should be no obstacle to using it -- there just needs to be an understanding from the staff that choosing it will help."
The cost of such therapy is minimal, study author Loewy said, and depends on the region of the United States a hospital is located. In the mid-Atlantic region, for example, certified music therapists cost about $65 per hour, and a typical session with each infant would last for 10 to 15 minutes, she said.
"In terms of the cost, when you're able to better regulate [a preemie's] vital signs, that's going to lead to less days in the hospital and less expense for [medications]," she added.
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