Turn down the volume on Christmas toys

Second only to stepping on toy soldiers and Legos, the ordeal of having to listen to your child’s noisy toys can be one of the most obnoxious and painful consequences of giving Christmas gifts.

What you might not realize is that in addition to being annoying, the sheer volume of sound that some toys produce may also be harmful to your child’s hearing.

The Sight & Hearing Association recently released their annual “Noisy Toys Study.” The organization, dedicated to identifying and preventing vision and hearing loss, evaluated 20 popular toys found on many children’s Christmas lists. The study identified that 18 out of 20 popular toys emitted sounds louder than 85 decibels.

This is alarming given that, according to the National Institute of Occupational Health and Safety, hearing protection is mandatory for workers when exposed to noise levels above 85 dB and exposure is limited to no more than eight hours a day.  Four of the toys they evaluated emitted sounds reaching over 100 dB. Sounds over 100 dB have the potential to damage hearing in as little at 15 minutes.

The study further explained that the American Society of Testing and Materials is responsible for regulating the acoustic standards of toys. Their regulations state that the sound-pressure level of toys must not exceed 85dB at 50 centimeters — or almost 20 inches — from the surface of the toy. Children typically hold toys much closer to their ears than 20 inches. A child’s arm length is typically smaller than that length.

Although various toys appear to have made the Naughty List, the executive director of the Sight & Hearing Association recommends the following tips when purchasing and allowing your kids to play with noisy toys:

  • Check the volume of the toys before you purchase them. There are various sound level meter apps available, but using your own judgment can be just as effective.
  • Attenuate or help reduce the volume of the toys by placing tape or glue over the speakers.

In today’s world of early and frequent exposure to loud sounds through smartphones, tablets and other popular devices, protecting your child’s hearing whenever possible is very important. Although no one wants to be the Grinch that muted Christmas, keeping the volume of your little ones’ toys in mind may be beneficial in the long run.

Click the link below to see this year’s Noisy Toys list.

Noisy Toys List 2014

Allyson M. Womack, Au.D., F-AAA is an audiologist at University Health System

Photo by Frank Hebbert, Cambridge Mass., WikiCommons