Sure, it's always funny to see the look on parents' faces when their child opens the coolest drum set or the newest guitar on the market. What about the race track with 12 'real racetrack sounds'? Children love noisy toys. They love to sing and dance along with the music of that new guitar, and boys especially love all the sound effects that go along with a new car or truck. But have you ever stopped to think about how loud those toys really are?
Annually, the Sight & Hearing Association publishes a list of the most Noisy Toys of the Year. I am always surprised that the 'Top Toys' of the season typically appear on that list. You can find the 2012 list here: ata.org/NoisyToys2012.
Pay close attention the next time you watch children playing with a toy. It is frequently near their faces, and they are typically on the floor in close proximity to the toy. Oftentimes, toys can produce sounds in excess of 100dB! OSHA regulations restrict exposure to noise of 100dB to only two hours per day. If employees in an industrial setting are exposed to noise of this level, they are required to wear hearing protection, so why do we allow our children to get by without any protection? Even minimal exposure to these toys can do some serious damage to children's hearing. Children's ears are very sensitive to loud sounds, and over time, these noises damage structures in the ear. The effects may not be seen immediately, but they will have a cumulative impact throughout childhood and into adulthood.
Here are some tips to limit such exposure to noise and long-term hearing damage:
- If a toy sounds too loud to you, then it is too loud for your child. Either don't purchase the toy, or limit the duration of play.
- Turn the volume down if it has a variable volume control. If not, place clear packing tape over the speaker.
- Monitor children's play to ensure they are using the toys correctly and not holding them closer to their face or ears than necessary.
Another popular item for older children is a music player and headphones/ear buds. Limiting use to one hour at a time is recommended, and the volume control should not be any louder than 50 percent.
By taking steps now to protect your child's hearing, you can prevent hearing loss as they become adults. Noise-induced hearing loss is 100 percent preventable, and it is never too early to protect your hearing.
For more information on noisy toys and hearing loss, call Mount Nittany Physician Group's audiology department at 814.466.6396, or visit mountnittany.org.