Noisy toys are not for delicate ears
Children's toys are often extremely noisy. In some cases, they constitute a direct danger to children's hearing.
When used in ordinary play, some types of battery-driven toy guns can create noise levels between 110 and 135 dB, corresponding to the noise generated by a heavy truck, a rock concert or an airliner at take-off. Less, but consistent, noise from music boxes or robots (85-95 dB) can also be damaging.
In many workplaces, employees are required to wear hearing protection where noise levels exceed 85 dB. Noisy toys are not only a problem to children but also to parents as they often find the noise annoying and even painful, too.
Noice-induced hearing loss is cumulative; it happens gradually over time. That is why it is important to start protecting your child's hearing at an early age. Because of a child's shorter arm span, noisy toys are potentially more dangerous as children hold them close to the ear. Moreover, the way children play with their toys usually does not comply with the industry's "recommended use".
It is, therefore a good idea, when buying toys, to find out how much noise they generate, and perhaps choose other types of less noisy toys. Parents can also check their children's toys to find out how to reduce their noisiness, which toys should be removed and which are only suitable for outdoor use.
Below, hear-it has collected some practical advice for parents, including information on potential risks and possible measures that can be taken to reduce the noise generated by toys.
- Think about noise when buying toys. If it sounds too loud to you, it will also be too loud for your child.
- Avoid buying toys that have a warning that they should not be used close to the ears, as children will forget this during play.
- Put masking tape over the speaker of the toy to reduce the volume.
- Musical instruments and toy guns with sound effects can be damaging or cause irritation. In some cases, the best solution is to replace such toys with other less noisy toys or restrict their use to outside play areas.
- Computer games can be annoying for other people. Place your children's computer in a special room rather than in the living room or common room.
- Children's mats or rugs are an efficient means of reducing noise from playing blocks, for example.
- How you store the toys also affects noise levels. Hardwood or plastic boxes create lots of noise when the children rummage around for their toys, or empty the contents onto the floor. Line the boxes with fabric or felt to reduce noise. Toys can also be kept in baskets or fabric bags.
Apart from the safety and nuisance aspects of noisy toys, parents should also consider that noisy toys convey the message to children that hearing health is not important.
The damaging effect of repeated exposure to intense noise over a person's life span is something we should warn our children about. Educating kids on the importance of hearing conservation as a preventive measure and teaching them healthy hearing habits is just as important as focusing on the immediate noisy source.
Sources: Hear-It.org; "Noisy Toys: Annoying or Harmful?", The Hearing Review, 2006, "Støj i daginstitutioner - om praktiske/tekniske løsninger til dæmpning af støjen i daginstitutioner og skolefritidsordninger.", Socialministeriet, 2001 (Noise in day-care centres - practical/technical solutions for reducing noise in day-care centres. Danish Ministry of Social Affairs, 2001.) and "Høje lyde fra legetøjshylden", Råd & Resultater nr. 3, 1999 ("Noise from the toy shelf", the Danish consumer magazine Råd & Resultater, 3, 1999).