“Noisy Christmas toys risk damaging toddlers' hearing,” says The Daily Telegraph . The paper warned that certain popular Christmas toys “can be as loud as a chainsaw and risk permanently damaging toddlers’ hearing”.
This warning comes from researchers at the Department of Otolaryngology, University of California, Irvine, which measured how noisy a range of popular children’s toys is. It found that some toys could make noise at a level similar to a power saw.
Who says science is dull? This research involved researchers going down to local toy shops and playing with Christmas 2011’s popular children’s toys and measuring their noise levels. This is likely to have involved pressing buttons on dinosaurs, shooting toy guns and generally pretending to be children with toys, all in the interests of serious research. The researchers then bought the 10 loudest toys and took them to the lab for more precise measurements of how loud they were in a soundproof booth. They measured the noisiest toys, both right next to the toys’ speakers, and at about 12 inches away, which is about the length that a toddler would hold the toy away from their body (arm’s length).
The research does not appear to have been published in a journal. The researchers have put out a press release about the results of their tests.
Even though it is not yet published research, this type of finding virtually guarantees news coverage with its festive twist, not to mention the thought of white-coated researchers shooting each other with Buzz Lightyear’s Cosmic Blaster and playing Whac-A-Mole.
The researchers found the following noise levels measured in decibels (dB) for the 10 noisiest toys:
To put this into context, 110dB is the level of noise produced by a power saw and 90dB is the level of noise produced by an underground train. The American Academy of Otolaryngology suggests that unprotected exposure to sounds above 85dB for a prolonged period can lead to hearing loss.
Parents should not be overly concerned by these findings. Although all 10 of the toys tested were over 85 decibels next to the speakers, they were all less than 85dB when held at arm’s length away from the noise recorder. The likelihood is that children will not play with them for a prolonged period.
If parents are concerned, they can avoid (and ask others to avoid) buying their child noisy toys.
The researchers suggest that parents buying toys for toddlers listen to the toy while holding it near to their ears before they buy it. If it sounds too loud to them then the researchers sensibly suggest that they should choose a quieter toy.
They also suggest that toys that have speakers under the base may be better than having them on the side or top of the toy, as this means they would be less likely to be next to the child’s ear. Parents can also encourage their child not to hold the toy near to their ears, and not to play with them for too long. The lead researcher stated that, ‘generally, toys are safe if used properly’.
If all else fails with that noisy toy, you can always hide the batteries, if only for the sake of your own sanity.
There are a few solutions to this one: