Each year, the Sight and Hearing Association puts out a list of “noisy” toys after putting a variety of these items through thorough sound testing. Each year they find toys that are loud enough to be potentially damaging to your child’s hearing. Hearing damage can occur at a much lower decibel level than you may realize, so as you start your holiday shopping, keep an eye out for the toys that made the Noisy Toys 2018 list and be mindful of protecting your child’s hearing!
Current Standards: A quick review
According to the American Society of Testing and Materials (ATSM), the toy’s sound should not exceed 85 dB at 50 cm away. 50 cm is approximately 20 inches. In the real world, a child is not likely to keep a toy that far away from their ears during routine play, and thus the ATSM standards have been the focus of criticism because the toys are measured by OSHA military noise standards for adults. So, as you shop, keep that in mind – the testing uses standards based on adult levels.
How Loud is Too Loud?
Sound is measured in decibels. The higher the number you see, the louder the sound. 85 dB and higher is the level at which hearing protection is recommended. To give you an example, your hair dryer averages 75 dB. Rock concerts average 110 dB to 140 dB. You probably don’t need hearing protection when you dry your hair, but you’ll want to have some on hand for the rock concert. What about your children’s toys? Some of these toys are reaching rock concert level loud! Take a look: (Downloadable PDF)
The Noisy Toys 2018 Winner is…
This year’s winner: Bright Starts™ Safari Beats Musical Toy. Coming in at 102.1 decibels at 0 inches away and 89.7 decibels at 10 inches – this toy tops the list as potentially harmful to your child’s hearing health. Close behind is the Spin & Sing Alphabet Zoo, testing at 201.0 decibels at 0 inches and 89.7 decibels at 10 inches away. This is loud enough to cause noise-induced hearing loss. Noise-induced hearing loss occurs when we are exposed to loud sound either through repeated noise exposure or a sudden, high-intensity noise like an air horn. According to Dr. Serpa, “noise-induced hearing loss is the number one preventable cause of hearing loss. It’s important to have your child’s hearing tested regularly to monitor changes if they are exposed to noise.” For the sake of comparison, last year’s top noisy toy’s decibel level topped out 96.7 dB at zero inches away. It seems the top noisy toys 2018 have upped the volume.
What About Teens and Tweens?
While older children aren’t exposed to noisy toys like smaller children are, keeping track of their hearing health is equally important. Popular gifts for this age group that can affect their hearing include Bluetooth earbuds, over-the-ear headphones, and gaming headsets. Presently, it’s estimated that twelve to 15 percent of teens have noise-induced hearing loss. What are the current recommendations for the use of these items?
The 60-60 Rule
Audiologists recommend encouraging balance with the use of earbuds and headphones – 60 percent volume for a maximum of 60 minutes. The longer you listen, the lower the volume should go. Longer exposure to louder volumes can cause noise-induced hearing loss. Give your ears a break!
While “noise canceling” sounds like a gimmick, noise canceling does have benefits. Listening devices with this feature allow you to keep the volume at a reasonable level by canceling ambient noise in your environment. This encourages a healthier volume – you don’t have to crank it up to drown out the sounds around you.
Encourage your teen or tween to perform a few simple tests to help them check if their headphones or earbuds are too loud – we really like this list from review site Headphonesty: “6 Simple Ways to Check if Your Headphones Are Too Loud.”
Healthy Hearing for Life!
At Hearing Resources Audiology Center, we are committed to giving you and your family the tools and information you need to hear better and stay connected to your world. Contact us today!