Parents are always ready when it comes to telling their children to turn off the television, not to listen to their iPod too loud, and to avoid activities that obviously hurt their ears. But your local hearing center might be appalled if they saw some of the toys your children played with. It doesn’t take extraordinarily high volumes to cause permanent damage to your hearing if you’re exposed enough. And children can give new meaning to repetition. If you want to make sure they don’t go deaf before they become adults, here are some things to watch out for.
In an effort to warn parents of the potential dangers surrounding noisy toys, the Sight and Hearing Association publishes an annual list outlining some of the loudest toys on the market. These toys are often bought and given to children as gifts, and parents are completely oblivious to the fact that they could be doing them a disservice. Parents don’t usually choose the loudest toys possible on purpose (for their own sanity, if not for the protection of their children’s ears), but these toys aren’t always obvious. You can check with your local hearing center about toy safety.
Associations such as the Centers for Disease Control publish standards for how much noise the human ear can and should withstand on a regular basis. At the federal level, the decibel level is set at 85 dB. At that level or higher, the government advises citizens to wear hearing protection as it could expose themselves to long-term damage. Once noise damage occurs, there is no way to reverse the process. That ability to hear has been lost forever. But while a hearing center often sees people who have suffered hearing loss due to their profession walk through the door, few people notice that children’s toys regularly pass that decibel level.
In addition to perusing SHA’s list of noisy toys, you can take responsibility in your own hands by testing the toys in the store before taking them home. Most stores are happy to let you try a battery-powered toy, especially if you explain why you want to try it. Keep the toy close to your face, as this is what many children do when they play. Is it too strong for you? It will be even louder for your child, whose small ear canals compress sound. You would not let your child play with a laser that could cause blindness, so be sure to take the same precautions when it comes to your child’s ears.