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Noisy Christmas Toys Can Damage Hearing

Monday 11 December 2006- Many toys available this Christmas could damage your child's hearing according to new research by Deafness Research UK.

Working with researcher Dr Brad Backus at UCL's Ear Institute in London, we tested the noise levels produced by a selection of toys available to buy this Christmas.

Almost all (14 out of 15) of the toys tested produced noise levels above the recommended safety limit of 85dB(A) when held close to the ear. Half of the toys tested had levels above or very near recommended safety limits when measured at 25cm - about an arms length away.

noisy_toys.gifThe most dangerous toys by far were found to be toy guns. A mechanical toy machine gun, a plastic tommy gun, and a cap gun were tested and all were found to have noise levels that exceed recommended limits, making them the most dangerous toys available on the high street. These guns have the potential to cause serious damage to your childs hearing and could cause instant hearing loss.

For toys, 85dB(A) is the recommended safety limit for noise exposure, prolonged exposure to anything above this level has the potential to cause damage to hearing. 14 of the 15 toys were found to have average noise levels of between 84dB(A) and 115dB(A) when held close (2.5cm) from the microphone. Only one, a VTECH mobile phone for babies, was found to have a noise level below the safety threshold.

When tested at 25cm, a realistic distance a child would hold the toy during normal play, 8 of the 15 toys had average levels ranging from 81dB(A) to 105dB(A). Laser Command*, an electronic phaser game, had a level of 88.6dB(A) while Pixar Cars 'Lightening McQueen'* had a level just below the threshold at 82.5dB(A).

How a child plays with a toy can strongly influence the risk to his or her hearing. How far the child holds the toy from their ear and how long and how often the child plays with a toy are the critical factors.

Dr Backus said: "Children's toys clearly have the potential to do harm to their hearing so it's important that people are aware of the dangers and what to do about them. With most of the toys we tested, apart from the guns, there is a potential for harm but they're safe if used sensibly. With most toys, your child will only damage their hearing if they use them too often and for too long a duration, or if they stick them in their ear.

"Our advice is pretty simple: don't let your child hold noisy toys too close to their ear and don't let them play with them for more than an hour a day. Most parents probably don't want to listen to these toys for too long anyway!"

Three mechanical toy guns were tested a machine gun, a tommy gun and a cap gun. These were found to have noise levels between 130db(C) and 143 dB(C) at 2.5cm and of between 120 140dB(C) at 25cm from the toy.

Dr Backus said: "While many of the toys had noise levels that were loud enough to be of concern, the toy guns we tested were extremely noisy and these are what we're most concerned about. They were so loud that my ears were ringing for a while after the testing. If I had children, I wouldn't give any of these gun-toys to them, and I would recommend that people avoid them. They have the very real potential to cause permanent hearing loss."

If you suspect your child might have a hearing problem and would like information or advice on any hearing impairment, contact the Deafness Research UK freephone helpline on #0808 808 2222.

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