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Nov/Dec 2011    (View past health issues)
 Noisy Toys

Noisy Toys

Noisy Toys List 2011

December is the biggest toy-buying month of the year. And if you are the parent of small children, you will most likely open up a toy that has lights and sounds. So how do you know if that toy is too loud?

Every year, the Sight & Hearing Association and researchers from the University of Minnesota test a variety of toys - taken right off the shelves of local toy stores - for potentially dangerous noise levels. This year, 19 of 24 toys tested by the Sight & Hearing Association for it's noisy toys list sounded off over 100 decibels (dB). Say what? That's louder than a chainsaw.

The top offender on this year's list, Disney Cars 2 Shake N Go Finn McMissile, blared at 124 dB - loud enough to risk hearing damage instantly. A book, meant for an 18-month-old, topped 118 dB, which poses a risk in less than 1 minute. Exposure to noise levels above 85 dB for eight hours is the federal threshold for hearing protection. Levels above 90 dB can cause permanent hearing loss with relatively short exposure.

Until 2009, toy manufacturers were not required to follow any guidelines regarding the sound level of toys. Today, all toys must meet the acoustic standard set by the American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM) (ASTM F963-08), which states the sound-pressure level produced by all other toys except close-to-the-ear toys shall not exceed 85 dB 50 cm from the surface of the toy.

However, most kids play with toys by holding them or sitting right next to them, not at 50 cm away, which is just over 1.5 feet. As it has done for the past 14 years, SHA tests toys at distances simulating how a child might hold the toy - directly near the ear (0 inches) and at arm's length (10 inches). A sound-proof acoustic chamber was used to ensure accurate measurements.

Unlike with choking hazards and other injuries, there are no injury statistics on toys and hearing loss. That's because noise-induced hearing loss is nearly impossible to track its origination.

"Noise-induced hearing loss is cumulative," explains Sylvester. "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."

To protect your children, the Sight & Hearing Association offers the following tips:
  • 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. Call the Consumer Product Safety Commission or the Sight & Hearing Association.
  • Put masking or packing tape over the speaker on the toy. This will help reduce the volume.

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