ST. PAUL, MN—Parents hoping to light up their young children’s eyes with Christmas toys should take care not to unintentionally affect their ears as well. So advises the Sight & Hearing Association (SHA), a Minnesota-based non-profit organization, which reported that 24 toys tested for noise levels prior to the holiday shopping season produced sounds louder than 100 dB—similar to the blare of a chainsaw.
SHA teamed up with researchers from the University of Minnesota for their annual campaign to alert people to potentially ear-damaging toys on the market. They tested a variety of toys being sold by stores in the Twin Cities.
Cited as this year’s top offender was Disney Cars 2 Shake ’N Go Finn McMissile, which blared at 124 dB directly at its speaker. David Montag, MD, an otolaryngologist and resident at the University of Minnesota’s department of otolaryngology who helped test the toys, warned, “Noises greater than 85 dB have been shown to cause hearing loss. Many of the tested toys exceed this even when tested 10 inches from the speaker.”
Julee Sylvester, a spokesperson for Sight & Hearing, observed, “Noise-induced hearing loss is cumulative. It doesn’t typically happen from one event; it gradually happens over time. That’s why it’s important to start protecting hearing at a young age.”
The association has published a complete list of the toys identified as dangerously loud.
RULES FOR TOY MAKERS
Until recently, toy manufacturers were not required to follow guidelines for the sound levels that their playthings produce. But, since 2009, all toys must meet a standard set by the American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM F963-08). It prohibits the sale of toys (except close-to-the-ear toys) that produce sound-pressure levels exceeding 85 dB at 50 centimeters (about 19 inches) from the surface of the toy.
However, says SHA, most kids play with toys by holding them close. For that reason, the association tests toys at distances simulating how a child might hold the toy, near the ear and at arm’s length (10 inches).
The association offers these tips to holiday shoppers:
• Listen to a toy before you buy it. If it sounds loud to you, it’s too loud for your child.
• Report a loud toy to the Consumer Product Safety Commission at 800/638-2772 or to the Sight & Hearing Association at 800/992-0424 or ReportAToy@sightandhearing.org.
• Put masking or packing tape over a toy’s speaker to reduce the volume.
• Buy toys with volume controls.