Navigating Noisy Toys

Last update on Dec, 02, 2020

Noisy toys are somewhat easy to dismiss or ignore, though we’re sure some parents may disagree. The reality, however, is that loud toys can pose a significant risk to the hearing health of both children and adults alike.

The holiday season is an especially important time of year to be aware of the risks posed by noisy toys. We’ll let you know what to look out for as you go about your holiday shopping, and also give you some pointers on how to deal with that really loud toy spaceship Uncle Phil bought without consulting you. 

When is a toy too loud?

When does a toy go from being noisy to possibly contributing to hearing loss? The potential for harm is somewhat difficult to assess for a few reasons. Noise-induced hearing loss is caused by a combination of factors, namely the volume of the sound and how long a person is exposed to it. It is recommended that workers wear hearing protection in environments that routinely expose them to volumes of 85 decibels (dB). Exposure to noise at that volume for 8 hours or more can result in hearing loss. However, the amount of time required to affect hearing loss decreases as sounds get louder. For example, the sound of a power drill is around 100 dBs. Using that power drill without hearing protection could result in hearing damage in just over 18 minutes. To put it in perspective when it comes to playthings, some musical toys for children emit sounds as loud as 120 dBs.

Additionally, as any parent ever will tell you, children thrive at finding unexpected ways to play with their toys. There is a strong chance that a noisy toy that would be safe at arm’s length will end up directly against a child’s ear. The closer to a sound source a person is, the louder that sound becomes. Plus, children are―generally speaking―smaller than full grown humans. That light-up sword that you’re looking forward to swinging around after it’s unwrapped may be perfectly safe when you hold it at arm’s length. However, your child’s arms are a different story. The cool humming sound it makes as you cut through the air is going to be much closer to her ears when she picks it up.

How to tell if a toy is too noisy

Figuring out if a toy is safe for your child’s hearing isn’t an exact science; there are a number of factors that go into it. However, here are some tips to help you determine if a toy is right for your child.

  • Get a smartphone app to determine noise levels. That way you can get a reasonably accurate measurement of just how loud a toy is from a tool you already carry around.
  • “Try Me” buttons on a toy’s packaging can give you an opportunity to hear the toy before you buy it.
  • If you have to shout over a toy to be heard, it may be a danger to your child’s hearing.
  • When in doubt, don’t do it. If a toy seems uncomfortably loud to you, it’s best to err on the side of caution.

What to do with noisy toys

It’s almost unavoidable that at some point or another that your child is going to bond with a noisy toy that could have the potential to damage their hearing. If you don’t want to face the repercussions of throwing the toy away, maybe it’s better to improvise. If it’s an electronic toy, try removing the batteries. You could also put masking or duct tape over a toy’s speaker to reduce the overall volume. You may even be able to block access to the volume controls of a noisy toy altogether.

Most importantly, perhaps, you should begin talking to your child about how important it is be proactive in maintaining hearing health. More often than not, noise-induced hearing loss occurs over a period of time from accumulated exposure to overly loud noises. The sooner you begin teaching your child about hearing health, the more prepared they will be as they head out into the world. Get more information on hearing loss from Miracle-Ear today to ensure your child has all the resources they need. 

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