They are the toys that parents dread: wailing baby dolls, loud toy drums, karaoke machines. The noise can drive a person up the wall. Here’s a good excuse for getting rid of them: they may damage children’s hearing, according to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA).
“Squeaky rubber toys can emit sounds of 90 decibels (dB), as loud as a lawn mower,” ASHA warns. It takes just 15 minutes for 100 dB to cause hearing damage.
The Sight & Hearing Association (SHA) publishes an annual Noisy Toys List to help parents protect their kids hearing from these nefarious toys. Surprisingly, this year’s 18 entries include many educational toys, some toys meant for babies and some that can cause hearing damage with relatively little play-time.
This year’s loser is Disney Baby Einstein’s Take Along Tunes, designed for children three months and older. Next to a child’s ear, Tunes generates 114.8 dB. From 10 inches away, Tunes puts out 88.1 dBs.
Some other toys to dig out from under the Christmas tree: the Leap Frog Chat & Count Smartphone for kids as young as 18 months. It is handheld, which means children will put it up to their ears; when they do, they will get blasted with 100.7 dB.
Disney Baby Einstein loses again with its Discovery Drums. Drum purchasers know they are getting a loud toy virtually guaranteed to annoy nearby adults, but they may not realize that it is dangerous to its recipient.
Hearing loss is cumulative. A child who yaks on the Leap Frog Smartphone for a few weeks won’t suddenly become deaf, but over the years that child will also hear loud traffic and trains, construction noise, vacuum cleaners and ear buds playing music that is cranked up high so it can be heard over all the other noise. ASHA reports that 30 million Americans are exposed to dangerously loud noise regularly. Noise pollution is a serious and widespread problem.
The World Health Organization emphasizes that noise hurts more than our ears. Here is its list of other health consequences, as reported by Healthy Hearing:
- Tinnitus, also referred to as ringing in the ears
- Sleep disturbances
- Cardiovascular problems
- Pain and fatigue
- Poor work and school performance
- Speech problems
- Hormonal responses (stress hormones), and their consequences on the metabolism and immune system
Many parents strive to minimize risks to their children’s health, like germs, sun overexposure and junk food. Loud noise merits a place on that list.
It isn’t possible to escape damaging noise entirely in our culture, which helps explain why older people have significantly worse hearing in industrialized societies than elsewhere. Your future self will thank you for avoiding or reducing loud noise whenever you can. Children can’t do that for themselves, but when it comes to loud toys, parents can easily protect their kids by dumping the offending gadgets.
The Noisy Toys List creator, the Sight and Hearing Association, has an acronym that is on the nose: “sha” is Yiddish for “be quiet.” Please, toy manufacturers — SHA*