November 24, 2016
The sound level meter is back in the hands of Sight & Hearing Association (SHA) as they prepare for their 19th annual Noisy Toys List, This year's List includes 17 out of 20 toys that tested louder than 85 decibels (dB), which is the level set by the National Institute of Occupational Health and Safety for mandatory hearing protection. Walking through the toy aisles this year, SHA found three toys that were so loud they could cause hearing damage within 15 minutes and depending on your child's attention span, there were five more that could cause damage within 30 minutes to an hour of play time. The headliner for this year's noisiest toy is the WWE 3-Count Crushers, Roman Reigns™ action figure by Mattel®. Roman goes off the top ropes with 10 heavyweight sounds that creates an environment you'd find at a wrestling match. Groans and growls from this interactive toy topped out at 104.4 dB, which can damage hearing in less than 15 minutes when placed at a child's ear. While Mattel® promotes toys that "play fair", SHA feels the noise level from this toy is unfair and unhealthy for children and should include a noise-exposure warning.
According to the National Institute of Occupational Health and Safety (NIOSH), exposure to noise levels above 85 dB for no more than eight hours is the federal threshold for hearing protection. SHA reminds consumers that hearing loss is cumulative and it typically does not occur from one event; it gradually develops over time as we age and it is critical we protect children's hearing. If you own a smartphone, consumers can download a sound level meter app that measures the sound level of a toy. SHA suggests, “If you don’t own a smartphone, your ears will do just fine. The rule of thumb is, if a toy sounds too loud to you, it is too loud for the child.”
Toys are required to meet the acoustic standard set by the American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM), which states that the sound-pressure level produced by toys shall not exceed 85 dB at 50 cm from the surface of the toy. While ASTM acknowledges that 25 cm would be considered an average use distance for toys, they found 50 cm was a superior distance for their measurement purposes. “This standard is unreasonable, since 50 cm is longer than the average arm length of an adult. We test toys based on how a child would play with a toy, not how an adult would play with it. If you watch a child playing with a noise-producing toy you will see them hold it close to their face, next to their ears, which is much closer than a child's arm's length, which is approximately 10 inches (25 cm)”, explains Kathy Webb, Executive Director of SHA.
Parents can do a few things to make it a little quieter this holiday season. SHA recommends testing the toy before you buy it. Webb suggests you, “Don't be shy…push buttons and rattle toys as you walk through the toy aisle and if a toy is too loud for you, it will be too loud for your child. Look for toys that have volume controls and if you must buy a noisy toy, or your child receives a noisy toy as a gift, place clear packing tape over the speaker, it will reduce the sound level enough to make the toy ear-safe.” The University of Minnesota/Department of Otolaryngology and SHA confirmed in a study that covering noise-producing toys with tape or glue will significantly reduce the noise level of a toy, making it safer for children.
Founded in 1939, Minnesota-based Sight & Hearing Association is dedicated to enabling lifetime learning by identifying preventable loss of vision and hearing.
If you would like to receive a PDF copy of the complete 2016 Noisy Toys List© or if you have a noisy toy to report, contact Kathy Webb at firstname.lastname@example.org.