Toys that make noise, including squeaking rubber toys used by infants, are potential causes of hearing loss, Swedish researchers warn.
"The sensitivity of children to loud sounds is virtually unknown," Dr. Alf Axelsson writes in the journal Pediatrics. Many toys have noise levels above the danger levels for adults, and the effects on children could be even more severe.
Axelsson and colleagues at the University of Go teborg checked sound level on a variety of toys, including squeeze toys, trucks and cars, toy weapons and firecrackers.
The squeaking squeeze toys emitted up to 108 decibels measured at about four inches. "At normal distance, the sound pressure appears to be within safe limits," they write. "However, there is a clear risk for noise-induced hearing loss if the toy is used close to the ear of the child."
Some toy guns and firecrackers "emit sound levels that exceed the damage risk for adults" -- 140 decibels. The study said this was especially worrisome since children often hold cap guns near their ears in play.
"There is no acceptable reason for toys to be dangerously loud," Axelsson concludes. But he also offers little hope for parents who want to protect their children. "Children and parents," he writes, "cannot evaluate a toy with regard to the risk it presents of potential hearing damage."