by Michele Michaels
Kids love to play with toys, especially ones that make noise. Since noise is the number one cause of hearing loss, and nearly 15 percent of school-age children have some degree of hearing loss, it is important to be careful around loud toys. Too much noise can increase fatigue, decrease a child’s ability to pay attention, and reduce short-term memory.
The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association says that 85 decibels (dB) is the maximum volume a child should be exposed to for no more than eight hours a day. Sounds louder than 100 dB can damage hearing in less than 15 minutes. The World Health Organization recommends no more than 75 dB for children.
There is a fine line between a safe sound level and a harmful level, and when purchasing toys for the little ones this holiday season it is important to know what’s what.
The Arizona Commission for the Deaf and the Hard of Hearing (ACDHH) investigated the sound safety of some of this season’s most popular toys. The sound of each toy was measured with a decibel meter placed at the speaker, as if the child placed their ear next to the speaker.
Here are the top 5 noisy toys listed in dB order:
- Basic Fun Galaga Mini Arcade, age 8+, 114.7 dB
- Disney Frozen II Microphone, age 3+, 114 dB
- Maxx Action Long Haul Vehicle Transport, age 3+, 111.9 dB
- Disney Frozen II or Lion King Sing-Along Boombox, age 3+, 108.8 dB
- B. Toys Woofer Hound Dog Guitar, age 2+, 106.2 dB
Parents should also consider how the child will use the toy. Children aren’t always using these toys at arm’s length as they are intended. The decibel levels of other sounds around the child in addition to the toy, such as the television, kids yelling, or other toys, can quickly add up and over time cause hearing loss.
For parents who would like to check the noise level of a toy before or after purchase, there are free smartphone apps (search for decibel meter) available to measure the sound levels.
Simple test methods to ensure toys won’t hurt young ears before you buy:
- Use the try-me buttons on the toys in stores
- Hold the toy as close to your ear as your child would and ask yourself if the toy is too loud
- Hold the toy eight inches away from your ear (approximately the length of your child’s arm), and if you must shout above the sound effects it is too loud
How to keep the volume down on noisy toys:
- If the toy has volume control, ensure it’s always set to the lowest level
- Put tape over the speaker to mute it
- Put tape over volume control to prevent your child from increasing to unsafe volume level
Fortunately, there are many safe volume level toys on the market.
Here are the top 5 safe toys listed by age:
- Leap Frog Butterfly Counting Pal, age Birth+
- Fisher Price Laugh & Learn Smart Stages Puppy, age 6 months+
- Baby Einstein Magic Touch Piano, age 12 months+
- Little Tikes Touch ‘N Go Racers Police Car, age 2+
- DreamWorks She-Ra Princess of Power Sword & Shield Set, age 3+
Michele Michaels is the hearing healthcare program manager at the Arizona Commission for the Deaf and the Hard of Hearing, a statewide information referral center for issues related to people with hearing loss and leader in communication access, support services and community empowerment throughout the state.