Noisy Toys May Give Kids an Earful
Expert Recommends a 'Noise Diet' to Save Our Hearing
Dec. 15, 2006 -- Attention, parents: If your children get noisy toys this
holiday season, make sure they play with them safely.
"We hope parents will monitor their children's play with a noisy toy --
make sure they are not sticking the toy in their ear or using the toy for more
than an hour a day," Bradford C. Backus, PhD, tells WebMD in an email.
Backus works at University College London's Ear Institute. He recently
tested a variety of toys that make sounds to check for loudness.
"Most of the toys we tested were 'safe' when used responsibly," he
says, calling toy cap guns "the most worrying of the toys.
"We are not recommending that loud toys be banned or suggesting that
manufacturers are not complying with regulations," Backus says.
"Indeed, by and large, they are complying."
But, he added, people need to keep better track of how much loud noise their
ears are subjected to. And kids have special risks.
Cap Guns Are Noisy Toys
"Of course, we all know that you cannot predict what children are going
to do," says Backus.
"If they butter the cat, pour lemonade in your shoe, and feed cookies to
the VCR, they just might stick a toy in their ears," he says.
Backus measured the noise made by toys, including toy guns, a toy phone, toy
cars, and toys that play nursery rhymes or the alphabet.
Toy cap guns presented the greatest concern.
"This is because the little muscles and neural circuitry that are built
into our ears to help protect them from noise can't act fast enough to protect
them from these very sudden sounds [produced by the guns]," Backus
"Also, these cap guns are very loud," he adds. "They definitely
should not be fired indoors."
ASTM International, a worldwide voluntary standards development
organization, recommends decibel limits for sound-producing toys.
But toy makers aren't required to meet those standards, notes the
Minnesota-based Sight and Hearing Association.
"The take-home message for parents is: Let's start teaching children and
ourselves about a noise diet," Backus says.
He explains that "most people today understand that a healthy
nutritional diet prevents heart
diseaseheart disease and leads to
a more active old age. The same is true of hearing health; we should introduce
the concept of a noise diet."
People typically don't think about the health of their hearing until later
in life, Backus says.
"Part of the reason we neglect our hearing early on is because hearing
loss generally develops gradually over a lifetime and is painless," he
"Most of us understand that excessive noise exposure is bad, but the
idea that we should keep track of our daily noise exposure hasn't caught on
yet," he observes.
"Looking at how much noise the toys our children play with produce and
how our children play with them is just one stop on the way to lifelong healthy
hearing," Backus says.
Tips on Noisy Toys
The Sight and Hearing Association offers these tips about noisy toys:
- Listen to a toy before you buy it. If it seems loud to you, it's too loud
for your child.
- Report a loud toy to the Consumer Product Safety Commission at (800)
- Put masking tape or packing tape over the speaker on the toy to reduce the