The Sight and Hearing Association presents a list of noisy toys each year. They report on toys that tested at over 100 dB – way above the acceptable levels of safe noise. The federal threshold for hearing protection is exposure of no more than 85 dBA at 50 cm for 8 hours. Exposure to a level of 100 dB for 15 minutes a day has the potential to cause permanent hearing loss. Noise exposure is cumulative, so the more the exposure the more chance of having a hearing loss. Of the 18 toys tested this year, 7 produced sound above 100 dB.
The Sound and Hearing Association walks through toy aisles at different stores and selects ones that appear to be especially noisy. Their testers use a sound level meter to measure the noise from a toy when it is held 10 inches from the speaker, which is how close it would be to a child who was playing with it. Although the standard is to measure at 50 cm, that is longer than an adult’s arm, and much longer than a child’s arm. So even if a sound from a device held at arm’s length might be considered safe for an adult, it could well be too loud for a child, whose ears would be closer to the source of the sound. The worst offender this year was Baby Einstein’s Take Along Tunes, which measured 114.8 dB. Other toys reported to produce sound above 100 dB included Twister Dance Rave, B. Meowsic, Doc, McStuffins – Talkin’ Check-up Set, Road Rockin’ Ricky, Leap Frog Chat and Count Smartphone, Fisher-Price/Disney Planes Shake ‘n Go.
What can parents do?
Parents need to be vigilant. Just as they check to see that toys do not have sharp points, they need to check their noise levels as well to be sure that they are safe to play with. SHA recommends that parents play with toys before giving them to their children to be sure they are not too loud. They advise parents to play with toys in the same way that a child would play – held close to the ear. If a toy is noisy, SHA recommends placing packing tape or glue over the speaker to reduce the level of the sound. Parents should also consider removing toys that are noisy, even if the child is very fond of the toy. While losing a toy may upset a child for a short time, exposure that leads to hearing loss may cause permanent damage to a child.