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Bad Toys: Harming Children's Hearing

Each year Minnesota’s Sight and Hearing Association, in conjunction with the University of Minnesota, release their annual noisy toy report after measuring sound output levels from popular toys. The results are often shocking and reveal many toys have the potential to cause harm to children’s hearing. 

This report is released conveniently right before Christmas to bring awareness to holiday shoppers and to hopefully prevent damage in the New Year when toys are being played with by their tiny new owners. 

The holidays and the New Year have surely passed; however, there are many other events throughout the year when toys are bought for little ones and consumers should continue to be aware of the dangers some toys may present to children. 

2009 Naughty Toy List

So who made the naughty list in 2009?

  • Iron Man Mobile Headquarters Vehicle - produces 119.5 decibels (dBA) directly at the speaker of the toy. This truck is recommended for ages four and older. According to NIOSH, this toy is safe for only 11 seconds.
  • Fisher Price Learning Letters Mailbox – produces 113.9 dBA and is recommended for children 6 months to 3 years. This toy would be safe for only 35 seconds.
  • Sesame Street Help Along Sing a Song book – produces 112.1 dBA and is recommended for an 18 month old. Safe listening time? Only 56 seconds to get this book read before potential damage. 
  • Black & Decker Junior Chainsaw – roared into 4th place producing 111.4 dBA – which is not much less than a real chainsaw. Children can enjoy a safe play time of roughly one minute before this chainsaw is hazardous to their hearing.

The list does not stop here. Testing found 19 toys to be in excess of the recommended safe levels and some of the toys are from Baby Einstein, Leap Frog and VTech – names that pride themselves on being educational. 

Purchase with Caution

So, when you’re plowing through the throngs at the mall, consider the hearing safety of any toy you purchase. Take three distinct steps before buying: 

  • Turn on the toy. Does it make a loud noise. If it hurts your ears, imagine what it’ll do to your little one’s ears. If it sounds loud to you, it is too loud for your child.
  • Look for a volume control. Also, look for a volume on/off switch. If your child receives a welcome gift that’s too loud, place cellophane tape over the speaker to cut down on the dBs the toy pumps out.
  • Contact the Consumer Product Safety Commission to report a loud toy. The number is (800) 638-2772. or, you can send an email to: reportatoy@sightandhearing.org. These organizations have a core mission to keep kids safe from loud noise. 

    The first line of defense is the parent or gift giver. Indeed, you may be aware of the dangers small parts create – they present a choking hazard. Lead paint contributes to learning disabilities and dangerous levels of toxicity. Lead doesn’t have to be consumed. It can be absorbed by the skin. And loud toys can cause hearing loss. 

    For more information on the 2009 noisy toy list and how to protect the hearing of children from noisy toys, visit: Toys Dangerous to Children’s Hearing: Purchase with Caution .

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