Loud toys could cause hearing damage

Posted at 7:47 PM, Dec 20, 2017
and last updated 2017-12-21 14:27:09-05

When your kids put toys on their wishlist, you may think of choking hazards and pinched fingers- but doctors hope you'll also think of their ears. Doctors say some toys could be causing damage.

Dr. Emily Patterson is a clinical audiologist at Marquette University. She told TODAY'S TMJ4 there is reason to worry about the volume of your kids' toys.

"If it's loud enough, any sound is hazardous to anybody's hearing," she said.

An international group called ASTM sets standards for sound all toys have to meet- but Patterson said they don't measure the same way kids play.

She said they measure at 50 cm, which she said is almost the length of an adult arm. She said children play at a distance between zero and 25 cm.

Companies aren't supposed to make toys louder than 85 decibels. That level allows kids to play with a toy for 8 hours.

"Once that level quickly starts increasing and getting toward that hundred decibel mark, you're looking at the minute range instead of hours," Patterson said.

The Institute for sound and hearing puts out a Noisy Toy list every year.They measure toys at zero inches and ten inches. They pick the toys by walking through aisles, pushing buttons.

This year's highest level from a toy they tested came from Beat Bugs: Molded Sing-Along Karaoke.

If a child put their ear to the toy, they'd be getting 96.7 decibels of sound into their ears. At 10 inches, it's 89 decibels.

Patterson explains even short bursts of a very loud noise can do damage to the part of your ear that sends sound signals to your brain.

Almost half the toys on the list from 10 inches away measure more than 85 decibels.

The CDC has a recommended application to test the decibel level of your children's toys.

The list includes popular children's brands like paw patrol, power rangers and Disney princesses.

"We certainly don't want to take all these toys away," Patterson said.

In addition to being an audiologist, Patterson is a mom. So, she's found ways to make even the loudest of toys safe.

She says you can:

  • Put tape over speakers
  • Get inside the toy and put felt between speakers and where sound comes out
  • For toys like a hammer, she recommends covering the contact end with felt
  • Some parents limit loud toys by rotating them out
  • Or even skipping batteries in some of them.

The Toy Association sent the following statement to TODAY'S TMJ4:

"No toys intended for children and sold in the United States have been found to be dangerous based on their sound level. Toys sold in this country are required to comply with standards that include limits on sound level output.
Consistent with its concern for the safety and well-being of all children, in developing these standards the toy industry turned to a noted audiologist and expert on child and adolescent hearing for input, guidance, and leadership. The acoustic standard is included in ASTM F963, the toy safety standard that is federal law in the U.S. and has been modeled internationally.
Parents are reminded to listen to toys that make sounds before purchasing them to make sure they are appropriate for their children and fit within their family environment. Since children’s toys on store shelves already comply with limits on sound level, choosing toys with an “acceptable” level of sound is a matter of personal preference. Always look for a volume control or an on/off switch."