Listening to a kid’s toy scream, “Amarillo—yellow! Verde—green!” for hours is a special kind of misery. While many parents veto loud toys because they’re annoying, the Sight & Hearing Association is asking parents to consider another reason: hearing damage.
The St. Paul, Minn., organization just released its annual “Noisy Toys” list in advance of Christmas. Taking the top spot is a toy marketed for 3-month-olds: Baby Einstein’s Take Along Tunes. According to Baby Einstein’s Web site, Takealong Tunes is “baby’s version of an MP3 player” that plays seven classical masterpieces. When held directly against the ear, the toy measured 114.8 decibels and 88.1 decibels when a child’s arm length away. The safe limit is 85 decibels at 50 centimeters (about 20 inches) away from the toy, standards that are set by ASTM International (formerly American Society for Testing and Materials).
“We were floored when we saw that number,” says Kathy Webb, the executive director of the Sight & Hearing Association. “We had to re-test it.”
A spokeswoman from Kids II, which owns Baby Einstein, responded by saying that the toy “has been tested by an accredited third party laboratory and found to comply with sound level requirements stated in the US, Canadian and European standards for toys which produce sound,” and that the company stays “true to our mission of putting the safety and happiness of children and parents first.”
While there are standards for how loud toys can be, Webb says they aren’t realistic for how kids actually play with toys. Young children often try to find where the noise is coming from and put the speaker up to their faces, she says.
Webb suggests that parents test toys at the store before buying them and pass up the ones that seem too loud. Look for toys that have volume controls. If a well-meaning (or malicious) relative gifts your child a noisy toy, put clear packing tape over the speaker to muffle the noise.