Noisy Toys May Cause Hearing Damage
Toys that make noise are hot items at the holidays, with talking stuffed animals, trucks that make realistic noises, and other toys among the most sought-after gifts for kids every year. But experts at the University of California, Irvine warn parents and well-meaning gift-givers that noisy toys may be dangerous to children's health.
Researchers from the university tested the noise levels of dozens of popular toys in stores, and ended up purchasing the 10 noisiest toys for more controlled testing in a soundproof both at UC Irvine's Medical Center. The noise-making toys included popular items such as Let's Rock Elmo, Tonka Mighty Motorized Fire Truck, Buzz Lightyear Cosmic Blaster, Road Rippers Lighting Rods, and more.
As it turns out, toys like the Cosmic Blaster might be more aptly named the "Sonic Blaster," as the noises made by the toys exceeded 90 decibels, and many exceeded 100 decibels or more, a noise level equivalent to that of a chain saw, lawn mower, or subway train. Children who play with these toys may risk permanent hearing damage. Noises above 85 decibels can cause permanent hearing damage, and louder noises can cause more damage in a shorter time.
Although at first listen, the noises made by the toys may not seem excessively loud, experts warn parents that children may be holding the toys too close to their ears. When held at a toddler's arm's length (about 12 inches), the toys' noise levels were acceptable, but close to the speaker, the noise levels became higher and more dangerous. Children frequently hold toys close to their heads, which may cause the toys to be too loud.
Researchers emphasize that a child's hearing is more sensitive than an adult's, and that being exposed to excessive noise may cause permanent and irreversible hearing damage. Children are especially sensitive to loud or high-pitched sounds. The experts recommended that adults who intend to buy noise-making toys for children pay attention to the location of the speaker on the toy — speakers that are located underneath the toy rather than on top tend to be better. Also, try holding the toy close to you and listening, as a child would, to test if the toy is too noisy.
The list of the loudest toys tested by UC Irvine researchers included:
- Road Rippers Lightning Rods
- I Am T-Pain Microphone
- Tonka Mighty Motorized Fire Truck
- Marvel Super Shield Captain America
- Whac-A-Mole Game
- Tapz Electronic Reflex Game
- Sesame Street Let's Rock Elmo
- VTech Magical Learning Wand
- Toy Story Buzz Lightyear Cosmic Blaster
- Green Lantern Colossal Cannon