Noisy Toy Dangers Should Not Be Overlooked, Study Says

With so much attention on lead tainted toys lately, many parents might not be aware that noisy toys can also be  dangerous toys.  But a new study finds that noisy toys – if not used correctly – can seriously injure the hearing of young children.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) say prolonged exposure to loud sound can cause permanent hearing damage. OSHA recommends that it’s safe to listen to a 100- decibel sound for up to two hours a day. But a research team at the University of California, Irvine found that many toys on the market make noises in excess of that level.  They found that the sound level of more than a third of the 17 musical and noise-making toys they examined reached 100 decibels or more.   That is as loud as a chain saw or subway train, the researchers said.  Some of the loudest toys could damage a child’s hearing if they are held against the ear for just few minutes.  The toys that tested lowest in the study had levels of 80 decibels or lower.   A level of 80 is similar to a loud restaurant or normal conversation, the researchers said.

Some of the loudest toys tested by the California researchers included High School Musical Rockerz Jammin Guitar, which topped the list with 106 decibels. It was followed by Cheetah Girls In Concert Collection Doll, Hannah Montana In Concert Collection Doll, VTech V.Smile Baby, CAT Motorized Dump Truck and Tickle Me Elmo, which all topped 100 decibels at full volume.  Toys with mid-range sound levels tested in the study included Transformers Trans-portable Activity Center, Tonka Lights and Sounds Hummer, Bob the Builder Deluxe Talking Tool Belt, Bosch Toy Chainsaw, Tickle Me Cookie Monster, Little People Dump Truck and Cabbage Patch Kids Babies.  And those with the lowest decibel levels – 80 or less – included the Little People School Bus, Playskool Gloworm, Tickle Me Ernie and Leap Frog Learning Lily had similar low levels.

But the researchers stressed that even the loudest toys in the survey could be safe as long as they were used correctly.  They said that none of the toys, which were tested at a one-inch distance from a speaker, should be listened to at full volume closer than arm’s length from a child.  This makes toys like singing dolls – which children tend to hug close to their faces – potentially more dangerous than toy fire trucks that make siren noises.  A toy truck is usually played with on the floor, far away from a child’s face to prevent hearing loss.

The California scientists said that their study points to the need for parents to closely supervise children while they play with toys.  Especially younger children, they said, who are more likely to lift a toy towards their face or ear.

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