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Noisy toys to avoid this holiday season

noisy toys, hearing loss, children, Arizona, holiday shopping
Michele Michaels tests the noise level of a toy car with a decibel meter. Photo by Rachel Brockway.

With the holidays in full swing, parents are combing the aisles to find the perfect toys for their kids. It’s always important to look at age recommendations and any warnings on the packaging. But have you ever considered how noisy a toy is? Did you know that noisy toys can potentially damage a child’s hearing?

Noise is the number one cause of hearing loss. By first grade, fewer than 1 percent of all children have hearing loss; but by the time they’re teenagers, 20 percent will have some level of hearing loss. Noisy toys could be one of the causes. Even worse, children exposed to loud noises at a young age begin to think loud sounds are normal. They aren’t!

According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, 85 decibels is the maximum volume a child should be exposed to for no more than eight hours. Decibel levels are routinely monitored in construction, engineering and other industries, to ensure hearing safety. Sounds of more than 100 decibels can damage hearing in fewer than 15 minutes of exposure.

Every year, the Arizona Commission for the Deaf and the Hard of Hearing tests some of the season’s most popular sound-producing toys and finds several that could potentially damage a child’s hearing. When shopping for any child, please take precautions to buy fun toys that also are safe. Here are questions to ask:

  • Does the toy have volume control? If there is no way to turn down the volume, the child will be exposed to whatever decibel level the toy produces. Keep in mind, however, that lowering a toy’s volume may not reduce the danger. Even at its lowest volume, the B. Woofer Hound Dog Guitar we tested reached a dangerous noise level. On the other hand, the Baby Einstein Discover & Play Piano reached a safe noise level when the volume was lowered.
  • Is there an on/off switch for the volume? The switch can allow a child to enjoy a toy without the risk of hearing damage.
  • Does the toy seem loud to you? If the noise level seems loud to you, it probably will be just as loud or louder to a child. If you’re concerned, download a free decibel-meter app to your smartphone to test the toy before you buy it. (ACDHH recommends the Armstrong Ceiling Solutions Sound Level Meter.) Or, test it at home and return the toy if it’s too loud.
  • Is your home already noisy? Be mindful of rising decibel levels at home when children are playing with toys while the television blares or loud music is playing. The combined environmental noise can lead to unsafe sound levels. If you already have noisy toys in the house, you can remove the batteries or place tape over the speakers to reduce the noise level.
  • Do you have headphones specifically for kids? Volume-reduced headphones are specially designed for kids to keep gaming and MP3 players at a safe level for their ears.

Noisy toys

Every year the Arizona Commission for the Deaf and the Hard of Hearing measures the decibel levels of dozens of popular holiday toys and finds several that could potentially pose a danger to a child’s hearing with prolonged use. The decibel readings here are given for “near the ear.” Note: 85 decibels is the maximum volume a child should be exposed to for no more than eight hours; volumes exceeding 100 decibels can damage hearing in as little as 15 minutes.

2018 noisiest toys

  • 113.8 dB – Black and Decker Junior Leaf Blower, ages 3+
  • 108.5 dB – Marvel Avengers Infinity War Infinity Gauntlet Electronic Fist, ages 5+
  • 108.4 dB – My Little Pony Singing Rainbow Dash, ages 3+
  • 107 dB – VTech Go! Go! Smart Wheels Minnie Convertible, ages 1-5
  • 106.3 dB – Star Wars: The Last Jedi Bladebuilders Electronic Riot Baton, ages 4+
  • 106.2 dB – B.toys Woofer Hound Dog Guitar, ages 2+
  • 106.1 dB – Marvel Avengers Infinity War Mission Tech Iron Man, ages 4+
  • 105.6 dB – Fisher-Price Sing & Learn Music Player, ages 6 months-3 years
  • 104 dB – Fisher-Price Bright Beats Spin & Crawl Tumble Ball, ages 9 months+
  • 103.7 dB – Fisher-Price Laugh & Learn Puppy’s Busy Activity Home, ages 6 -36 months
  • 103.4 dB – B. toys Meowsic Keyboard, ages 2+
  • 103.3 dB – B. toys YouTurns Steering Wheel, 103.3 dB, ages 1-5
  • 103 dB – Fisher-Price Rock ‘n Sort Snail Pail, ages 6 months+
  • 101.6 dB – Marvel Black Panther Slash & Strike Erik Killmonger Figure, ages 4+
  • 100.7 dB – Fisher-Price Shimmer & Shine Tummy Rubs Nazboo, ages 3+
  • 100.2 dB – VTech Pull and Discover Activity Elephant, ages 1-3
  • 99 dB – VTech Drill & Learn Toolbox, ages 2-5
  • 99 dB – Spider-Man Homecoming Super Sense Spider-Man, 99 dB, ages 5+
  • 98.8 dB – VTech Sort & Discover Drum, ages 6 months-36 months
  • 90 dB – Playskool Friends Sesame Street Tickle Me Elmo, ages 18 months-4 years

2017 noisiest toys

  • 105.2 dB – Just Like Home Workshop Power Hedge Trimmer & Goggles
  • 105 dB – Marvel Spider-Man – Marvel’s Vulture 12-inch Action Figure
  • 104 dB – Fast Lane Jump Starters Vehicle – Kawasaki Ninja
  • 102.7 dB – Bruin – Rhythm ‘n Beatz Drum
  • 102 dB – LeapFrog My Talking LapPup
  • 101.5 dB – Marvel Spider-Man – Eye FX Electronic 12-inch Action Figure
  • 101 dB – Baby Alive – Super Snacks Snackin’ Noodles Baby
  • 100.5 dB – Marvel Avengers Civil War Captain America Titan Hero 12-inch Action Figure – Marvel’s Falcon
  • 100 dB – Fisher-Price Bright Beats Juniors BeatBo Playset
  • 98 dB – VTech Ultimate Alphabet Activity Cube
  • 97.5 dB – Fast Lane Light & Sound Police Motorcycle
  • 97.1 dB – Fisher-Price Think & Learn Code-a-Pillar
  • 97 dB – Guardians of the Galaxy – Vol. 2 – Groot Action Figure
  • 94.7 dB – Little Tikes Pop Tunes Guitar
  • 91 dB – Bruin – My First Phone

2016 noisiest toys

  • 105.7 dB – Tonka Toughest Minis Ambulance
  • 105.7 dB – Tonka Mighty Motorized Fire Truck
  • 105.3 dB – Tonka Toughest Minis Recycling Truck
  • 98.8 dB – Leap Frog Fridge Phonics Magnet Letter Set
  • 92.8 dB – Disney Frozen Musical Lights Elsa doll
  • 92.6 dB – Road Rippers Rush & Rescue Fire Truck
  • 91.2 dB – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Half-Shell Heroes Raph’s Talking Sai Set
  • 90.2 dB – B. Woofer Hound Dog Guitar

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