December is the biggest toy-buying month of the year. Unfortunately, many well-intentioned parents may be purchasing potentially harmful toys for their children. One significant danger posed by some toys is hearing loss. Any sound above 85 decibels (dB) can cause hearing loss over time. Noise induced hearing loss is cumulative, so it’s important to begin practicing healthy hearing habits at a young age. (Read more about noise induced hearing loss…..)
The 2013 Trouble in Toyland report is the 28th annual U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) survey of toy safety. In this report, U.S. PIRG provides safety guidelines for consumers when purchasing toys for small children and provides examples of toys currently on store shelves that may pose potential safety hazards.
U.S. PIRG noise guidelines for toys:
- Hand-held, tabletop, floor, and crib toys should not produce continuous sound that exceeds 85 dB when measured from 25 centimeters (about 10 inches).
- Close-to-the-ear toys should not produce continuous sound that exceeds 65 dB when measured from 2.5 centimeters (about 1 inch).
- Toys with impact-type impulsive sounds should not produce a peak sound in excess of 115 dB when measured from 25 centimeters.
- Toys with explosive-type sounds should not produce a peak sound in excess of 125 dB when measured from 25 centimeters.
The danger with noisy toys is greater than the rated sound level they produce implies. A toy rated at 90dB can produce as much as 120 dB of sound at the ear, the equivalent of a jet plane taking off. Noise at this level is painful and can result in permanent hearing loss. Children often hold toys directly to their ears, which actually exposes them to more sound.
According to this year’s U.S. PIRG report, several toys tested exceeded noise guidelines:
- The Leap Frog Chat & Count Smart Phone , labeled for ages 18 months an up, is clearly intended to be held close to the ear, but exceeds not only the 65 decibels at 2.5 cm but reaches over 85 decibels at 2.5 cm.
- The Leap Frog Lil’Phone Pal, labeled 6 to 18 months, also exceeds 85 decibels at 2.5 cm, yet is also clearly intended to be held close to the ear.
- The Fisher Price Laugh & Learn Remote, labeled for ages 6 to 36 months, was measured above 85 decibels at 2.5 cm, and may also be held close to the ear.
To protect your children, follow these tips:
- Before purchasing a new toy, listen to it. If a toy sounds loud, don’t buy it
- Check the toys you already have at home. Remove the batteries or put masking or duct tape over the speakers of noisy toys. This will help reduce their volume.
- Look for toys that have a volume control or an option to mute the volume.
- Report loud toys. Contact the Consumer Product Safety Commission website, www.saferproducts.gov.
- Free sound meter apps available for smart phones are a helpful tool to measure a toy’s noise level before purchasing it.
Remember, your child’s hearing is precious!