We’ve seen some great advances lately in public awareness of how sudden loud noises, like those of fireworks or long-term noise exposure from a military career, can damage the hearing at any age, but something that’s not talked about as much is how damaging noisy toys can be.
The World Health Organization says that safe listening levels are:
- Adults – no more than 40 hours per week, no higher than 80 dB
- Children – no more than 40 hours per week, no higher than 75 dB
For comparison, 80 decibels (dB) is about as loud as a garbage disposal or a dishwasher, and the sound level of a live rock concert is 110 dB. And 150 dB can rupture an eardrum – the sound level of a jet engine or top fuel race car.
You might think that there’s no way children’s toys would damage their hearing because manufacturers have to follow certain noise guidelines, but sadly, that’s not true.
And something to consider is not just how a toy sounds to you but also how often a child will hold a toy close to their ear, making the volume level that much greater.
Which Toys Are Dangerously Noisy?
Have a look at this 2021 list from the Sight and Hearing Association (SHA) on the noisiest toys (although it does not assess all of this year’s noisy toys).
Chances are that any toy that does or has the following might cause damage:
- Squeaks, screeches, screams
- Sirens – ambulance, police car, etc.
- Music, microphones, boomboxes, musical instrument toys
- Phone sounds
- Sounds of animals, vehicles, household appliances, tools, aircraft, dinosaurs, etc.
The top toy on the list is the Disney Moana Squeeze and Scream HeiHei made by JAKKS Pacific, with a 109.7 dB sound level of a live rock concert if held up to the ear. A close second is the Disney Frozen II Sing-Along Boombox measuring 109 dB.
It is particularly disturbing to know that these toys are even allowed on the shelf when a child’s hearing can be damaged at only 75 dB.
What Happens If A Toy Causes Hearing Damage?
In most cases, hearing damage causes a degree of irreversible hearing loss, and it can happen in minutes. The louder the sound, the worse the hearing damage.
The auditory system works by sending sound waves to hairlike receptors in the inner ear, and if these cilia are damaged, they don’t grow back or heal themselves, confirming the sage advice that prevention is better than cure.
Here are some signs of hearing loss.
How Can I Find Out If A Toy Is Too Loud?
Many noise or sound level meter apps are free, so it’s a simple matter of downloading one to your phone to test the decibel level of the toy in question. But most of the time, an app isn’t even necessary. If your hearing is good, hold the toy up to your ear and listen. You’ll know if it’s too loud almost immediately.
I Can’t Send The Toy Back, So How Do I Fix This?
Your kid loves the toy and you really don’t want to send it back, but you don’t want your child’s hearing damaged either.
The SHA recommends changing the volume to the lowest setting, or at least to 60%. And put clear packing tape, or some other strong, clear tape, over the speaker. If all else fails, take out the batteries.
Also, keep daily time with the noisy toy to a minimum, or give them frequent breaks from it.
As Atlanta’s leading hearing care expert, I’m committed to helping local families in the community to better understand the importance of hearing healthcare.
If you have a question about anything discussed in this article and would like some advice in protecting your child’s hearing, please contact me today and let me see how I can help.