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Toys sound off in dangerous zone, Sight & Hearing Association releases annual noisy toys list

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(St. Paul, Minn.) -- Seven of 18 toys tested by the Sight & Hearing Association for noise levels this holiday shopping season sounded out louder than 100 dB — similar to the blare of a chainsaw. Moreover, all of the toys tested are meant for children under 4.

For the 13th year, the nonprofit organization and researchers from the University of Minnesota tested a variety of toys — taken right off the shelves of local toy stores — for potentially dangerous noise levels. This year’s top two offenders, Bell Riderz Block Blaster and cars Shake ’N Go Ramone, blared at 129.2 and 119.5 decibels (dB), respectively. According to National Institute of Occupational Health and Safety (NIOSH) standards, that level leads to a risk of hearing damage almost instantly.

“I was definitely surprised by these results,” said Heather Nelson, M.D., an otolaryngologist and resident at the University of Minnesota’s department of otolaryngology who tested the toys. “Some of these toys could be dangerous to hearing if they are held close to the child’s ear and played with for an extended period of time.”

In fact, sounds that are 85 dB or louder can permanently damage your ears. The louder the sound, the less time it takes to cause damage. For example, a sound at 85 dB may take as long as eight hours to cause permanent damage, while a sound at 100 dB can start damaging hair cells after only 15 minutes of listening. According to NIOSH, part of the Centers for Disease Control, the permissible exposure time (the amount of time you should listen) is cut in half with every 3 decibels over 85 dB.

Because of a child’s shorter arm span, toys are often potentially more dangerous because children hold them closer to their ears. In the Sight & Hearing Association study, the toys were tested at distances simulating how a child might hold the toy, directly near the ear (0 inches) and at arm’s length (10 inches). A soundproof booth was used to ensure an accurate recording.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission does not have regulations that address the loudness of toys. Another regulatory agency, the American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM), has a standard called F963 that recognizes noise levels. Those standards state a hand-held, table-top or crib toy should not exceed 90 dB at 25 cm. However, compliance with the standard is voluntary.

To protect a child’s hearing, the Sight & Hearing Association offers the following tips:

  • Listen to a toy before you buy it. If it sounds loud to you, it’s too loud for your child.
  • Report a loud toy. Call the Consumer Product Safety Commission at 800/638-2772 or the Sight & Hearing Association at 800/992-0424, or contact us by e-mail at ReportAToy@sightandhearing.org.
  • Put masking or packing tape over the speaker on the toy. This will help reduce the volume.
  • Buy toys with volume controls.

“Noise-induced hearing loss is cumulative,” explains Julee Sylvester, Sight & Hearing Association spokesperson. “It doesn’t typically happen from one event; it gradually happens over time. That’s why it’s important to start protecting hearing at a young age.”

The Minnesota-based Sight & Hearing Association, founded in 1939, is dedicated to preventing vision and hearing loss in all Minnesotans through education, screening and research.

Toy Manufacturer Recommended
Age Group
Type of Toy Decibel level dB(A)
0 inches 10 inches
Bell Riderz Block Blaster Bell Sports, Inc. ages 4-8 Hand 129.2 112.9
Cars Shake ‘N Go Ramone Mattel, Inc. ages 3-7 Floor/Hand 119.5 80.3
Transformers Optimus Prime Cyber Sword Hasbro 4+ Hand 110.1 82.8
True Heroes Sonic Battle Blasters Geoffrey, LLC 3+ Hand 110 85.1
CAT Mini Mover Toy State Intl Ltd. 3+ Floor 104.8 86.4
Rocket Boost Iron Man 2 Hasbro 3+ Hand 103.2 76.6
Road Rippers Rush & Rescue Fire Truck Toy State Intl Ltd. 3+ Floor 101.6 82.9
Interaction Morris Learning Curve Brands, Inc. 3+ Floor 98.7 78.9
Proto Bat-Bot Figure Mattel, Inc. 4+ Hand 98.6 82.9
CAT Honk & Rumble Wheel Toy State Intl Ltd. ages 2-5 Hand 96.6 90.7
Dora Tunes Microphone Fisher Price, Inc./Mattel 3+ Hand 96.3 74.9
B. FunKeys Battat Inc. 6 mo-3 Hand 96.1 80.5
Dora Magic Adventure Wand Fisher Price, Inc./Mattel 3+ Hand 94.8 82.8
Sesame Street Singing Pop-Up Pals Mattel, Inc. ages 1-3 Floor 93.6 83.8
Bruin Musical Teething Keys Geoffrey, LLC 3 mo.+ Hand 86 62.7
Fisher Price Laugh & Learn Learning Phone Fisher Price, Inc./Mattel 6-36 Mo. Hand/Ear Toy 84.1 62.2
Bruin Mini Kitchen Geoffrey, LLC 2+ Table-top 83.1 71.1
Bruin Lights & Sounds Fire Truck Geoffrey, LLC 2+ Floor 82.7 68

All measurements were taken with a calibrated sound level meter, A-weighted scale, fast-response.
Sight and Hearing Association, 1246 University Ave. W., Ste #226, St. Paul, MN 55104-412
www.sightandhearing.org 800/992-0424

About ADA

The Academy of Doctors of Audiology is dedicated to leadership in advancing practitioner excellence, high ethical standards, professional autonomy, hearing and balance care technology, and sound business practices in the provision of quality audiological care. For more information about ADA and its upcoming initiatives, visit www.audiologist.org or contact Stephanie Czuhajewski. ADA is Hear for Your Future.