Beware of Dangerous Holiday Volumes

Audiology Associates: Beware of Christmas toys with dangerous volume levels


Lawn mowers, concerts, ambulance sirens, and motorcycles are among the most commonly recognized sources of loud, potentially damaging noises that could lead to hearing loss over time. Meanwhile, unnoticed contributors to noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) may be sitting underneath Christmas trees across America: children’s toys.

“Some of the most common toys for infants, toddlers, and adolescents really shouldn’t even be handled by their intended users,” says Dr. Peter Marincovich of Audiology Associates. “There aren’t a lot of packages with adequate warnings, and the regulations for these toys are pretty poorly written.”

Toys are required to meet standards set by the American Society for Testing and Materials regarding sound-pressure levels, but these standards aren’t always in touch with reality. For example, regulations state that noise emitted from a children’s toy must not exceed 85 decibels (dB) at 50 centimeters from the body; 50 centimeters is longer than the average length of an adult’s arm, creating a disconnect between the actual use of a toy and the rules for production. Of the Sight & Hearing Association’s 20 noisiest toys from 2012, 12 of them exceeded 100 dB at close range.

“When you consider how a child would actually play with a toy, they generally hold it a lot closer to their body,” says Dr. Peter Marincovich. “So how safe they are is really based on whether they’ll be interacting with and using the toy for an extended period of time or not.”

In September 2013, the National Center for Biotechnology Information produced a study suggesting that taping or gluing the speakers lowered the average decibel level by a significant amount. The 16 toys tested created an average noise level of 107.6 dB at very close range; taping or gluing over the speakers made them 84.2 dB and 79.7 dB at the same distance, respectively.

Both Android and Apple smartphones have downloadable decibel-meter apps that can offer a general idea of how loud a toy is at close range. Downloading one of these apps and testing the toys prior to purchase is just one way to take preventive action.

Audiology Associates is a full-service, independently owned audiology practice proud to be bringing better hearing to the people of Mendocino, Sonoma and Marin Counties for over 30 years. From four locations in Mendocino, Santa Rosa, Novato and Mill Valley, our AudigyCertified™ hearing care practice has helped thousands of patients with their hearing, tinnitus, and balance disorders — and offers state-of-the-art diagnostic testing and expert fitting of hearing technology.