Listening to a kid’s toy scream, “Amarillo—yellow! Verde—green!” for hours is a special kind of misery. While many parents veto loud toys because they’re annoying, the Sight & Hearing Association (SHA) is asking parents to consider another reason: hearing damage.
Toys are required to meet the acoustic standard established by the American Society of Testing and Material, which restricts the sound-pressure level to 85 decibels (dB) from 50 centimeters – or about 20 inches – away. Each year, SHA compiles and publishes a list of noisy toys that are louder than that threshold, which is capable of damaging a child’s hearing over time.
Not all toys made SHA’s nice list. Avoid giving the little ones in your life toys that measure above 85 decibels to ensure their hearing safety.
As you’re doing your holiday shopping for all the little ones in your life this year, keep an ear out for the unnecessarily noisy. Kathy Webb, SHA executive director, encourages parents to try toys out as they shop.
“Test a toy before you buy it. It’s okay to push buttons and rattle toys as you walk through the toy aisle and if a toy is too loud for you, it will be too loud for your child,” Webb said in a press release. “Look for toys that have volume controls and if you must buy a noisy toy this holiday season, or your child receives a noisy toy as a gift, you can place clear packing tape over the speaker which will reduce the sound level enough to make the toy ear-safe.”
SHA rates toys based on how loud they are when they’re held a child’s arm length away, about 10 inches, and also when they’re held up to the ear. “We test toys based on how a child would play with a toy, not how an adult would play with it,” Webb said. “If you watch a child playing with a noise-producing toy, you will see them hold it close to their face, next to their ears or closer than arms length.”
The loudest toy on SHA’s list is Disney’s Doc McStuffin Rockin’ Doc Sing-Along Boombox, which registers 106.4 dB when held to the ear and 84.8 dB when held at a child’s arm length. To put that in perspective, a typical lawn mower runs at 90 dB; imagine that noise right next to your ear! The Sing-Along Boombox is designed for just that, playing both songs from the TV show as well as from your own iPod. The toy is recommended for children aged three years and up, still too young to understand the potential dangers of putting the toy to close to their ears.
The second loudest toy on the list is for children even younger: babies aged six months to three years. Fisher Price’s Laugh & Learn Puppy’s Piano plays music, sounds and phrases as children push light-up keys on the keyboard. The Puppy’s Piano registers 104.4 dB when held up to the ear and 82.6 dB at arm’s length. The third is another entrant from Fisher-Price: Dora and Friends Play It 2 Ways Guitar, which clocks 104.1 dB when held to the ear and 82.2 dB at arm’s length.
SHA did find two toys that satisfied their safe volume standards, however. One is a product from Disney’s monstrously popular animated movie Frozen, Pull Apart & Talkin’ Olaf, a huggable version of the beloved snowman that can be pulled apart as its name suggests. Olaf registers 84.7 dB when held up to the ear and 70.0 dB when held at arm’s length. The other is Fisher-Price’s Two Tune TV, a classic toy first introduced in 1966. Two-Tune TV clocks 83.1 dB when held to the ear and 68.2 dB at arm’s length.
While Santa has a promise to keep to all the girls and boys on his Nice List this year, you have a responsibility to protect your child’s hearing. Be aware of the potential dangers and if you think a toy is too loud, put it back.
If you think your child (or a child you know) may have been exposed to loud noise levels for an extended period of time, play it safe and schedule an appointment at Audiology Island. There are many options for preventing hearing loss, but regular checkups are essential to maintaining hearing health.