Sustained Exposure to Noisy Toys Can Cause Irreversible Hearing Loss in Children
Every year before the holidays, a list of the most dangerous toys is released to help parents buy safe gifts for their children. Toys on the list usually have tiny parts that can be ingested or pieces that pose a safety danger. There is another list of toys that protects your child’s health and it’s the noisy toys list. It informs parents about the toys that exceed federal safety limits for decibel levels.
Twenty-two toys made the 2017 Noisy Toys List released by the Sight and Hearing Association . All but four of them emit sound louder than 85 decibels (dB) when held to the child’s ear. Six of them registered louder than 85dB when held 10 inches from the child’s ear. The federal safety limit for exposure to noise levels without wearing hearing protection is 85 decibels. Even when the base decibel level of a toy on the tabletop is 85dB or under, the noise level is amplified many times if children pick up the toy and hold it to their ears. The top five toys on the list are:
- Beat Bugs®, Molded Sing Along Karaoke: 96.7dB at the ear, 89.4dB at ten inches away
- Disney Elena of Avalor, Magical Sceptor of Light with Sounds: 96.3dB at the ear, 85.6 at ten inches away
- Disney Pixar Cars, Talking Cruz Ramirez: 93.9dB at the ear, 88.3dB at ten inches away
- Despicable Me 3™, Dave with Banana: 93.8dB at the ear, 79.2dB at ten inches away
- Chomp & Count Dino: 93.8dB at the ear, 88.1dB ten inches away
The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association1 (ASHA) says the average squeaky toy reaches 90 decibels2, the same noise level as a lawn mower. ASHA says that a toy that emits sound at 90 decibels actually becomes 120 decibels when held close to the ear. To illustrate how loud that is, here are some common, everyday objects at those decibel levels:
- 90 decibels: motorcycle 25 feet away, Boeing 737 at one nautical mile before landing
- 120 decibels: chain saw, oxygen torch
Objects at 110 decibels are considered to be the average pain threshold for humans. In addition, it’s important to note that the level of noise doubles and triples at higher decibel levels. In other words, a noise at 120 decibels, like a toy held to the ear, is 32 times louder than a noise at 70 decibels. Some estimates3 show that a noise at 90 decibels can damage a child’s hearing in 30 minutes. The bottom line is, if you think a child’s toy is too loud and it hurts your ears, it is definitely hurting your child’s ears, too.
The National Institutes of Health4 has created a program to educate parents of children aged 8 to 12 about noise levels in an effort to avoid hearing damage. Called “Noisy Planet,” the program offers tips, tools and numerous other resources for parents and those in their support network including school teachers, clergy, and community organizations. It bases activities and education on the three rules of hearing protection:
- Lower the volume
- Move away from the noise
- Wear hearing protectors, such as earplugs or earmuffs
As a parent, grandparent or caregiver, you can help to protect a child’s hearing by preventing sustained exposure to noisy toys. Some of the steps you can take include:
- Remove the batteries from noisy toys
- Buy the child headphones or earplugs to wear while playing with the toy
- Use the on/off switch on the toy to turn the noise off
- Place duct tape over the speaker
- Or just don’t buy noisy toys
Noisy toys may be fun but the risk they pose should not be ignored. Hearing loss caused by sustained exposure to noisy toys cannot be regained. Avoid buying noisy toys, even when they are popular. If you do end up buying them, make sure to put earplugs or headphones in the shopping cart as well.