Noisy Toys: The Hidden Dangers

The holidays are quickly upon us, and I’m sure that many of your Christmas lists are filled with toys for the little ones. Many toys children want have all sorts of sights and sounds. Parents, family and friends might not realize the dangers that various toys may pose on children’s hearing. Studies have shown that toys with sirens and other musical sounds can emit sound levels equivalent to a lawn mower, jackhammer or even a jet plane taking off.

Hearing loss can occur at any age. A growing cause of childhood hearing loss is prolonged exposure to noise. In fact, it is estimated that one in every eight children suffer from some degree of noise-induced hearing loss. Unfortunately, this damage is permanent and can have lasting effects on overall communication.

Noise exposure has consequences beyond just hearing damage. A study in 2004 revealed that continuous noise exposure from surrounding environmental sounds can have negative effects on overall academic performance, particularly reading comprehension, information recall and sustained attention. Untreated hearing loss, especially during years of speech and language development, can have permanent side effects on a child’s social interactions and learning.

Each year, the Sight and Hearing Association posts a list of the year’s noisiest toys. Toys that topped the list in 2011 included: Disney Cars 2 Shake’ N Go!® Finn McMissile, Disney Princess Play-a-Sound Follow Your Dreams® interactive book and Hot Wheels Super Stunt Rat Bomb™. All three of these toys, along with others from the list, emit noise levels louder than a chainsaw.

Here are some helpful tips for protecting your kids from these noisy toys:

  • Before buying a new toy, listen to it. If it sounds too loud to you, it probably will be too loud for your child as well.
  • Avoid buying toys that have a warning that they should not be used close to the ears.
  • Inspect toys that you already have at home. If possible, remove the batteries or use the lower sound setting instead. If there are no controls to manipulate, try placing masking tape over the speaker of the toy to reduce the volume.

Remember, noise-induced hearing loss is 100-percent preventable. If you are concerned about your child’s hearing, don’t hesitate to have his or her hearing evaluated. If you would like more information on noisy toys, you can visit www.sightandhearing.org or contact me at (605) 665-6820.

By Dr. Matthew Rumsey

Audiologist at Avera Sacred Heart

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