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Protect Your Young Child’s Hearing

May is Better Hearing and Speech Month and it is the perfect time to address sources of loud noise that may be hazardous to your child’s hearing. Hazardous noise can come from unexpected places, even that new toy you just bought your toddler. This blog post was authored by Captain Joel Jennings, Chief of the Fort Bliss Hearing Program.

Hearing loss is most often associated with old age, or with adults working in noisy jobs. However, there is an increasing number of young people demonstrating hearing loss from loud noise. Recent studies published in the Journal of Pediatrics and ENT Today demonstrate that 12.5 to 16 percent of kids from the ages of 6-19 have noise-induced hearing loss. That’s almost 6 million children!

Hearing loss among young children is of particular concern because of the accelerated pace at which young children are developing speech, social interaction and education skills. Hearing is a critical sense for development of these life skills, and hearing loss can have a significant negative impact on their ability to develop these skills at the same rate as their peers, putting them behind in development.

Often, the most-blamed culprit is the ever-present MP3 player. While these devices certainly have the potential to cause permanent damage to hearing, there are other sources of concern for parents of very young children that you might not be aware of: toys.

Recently, the Sight and Hearing Association (SHA) completed their 15th annual review of noisy toys, and the results are quite shocking. Federal and Army regulations label sounds that exceed 85 decibels (dB) as hazardous and require the use of hearing protection when exposed to these noises. In their study, SHA found 20 popular and top-rated toys that exceeded this level. Twelve of these toys exceeded 100 dB, and one toy even checked in at an incredible 111dB.

To put this into context, the Department of Defense will allow Service Members and workers to be exposed to 100dB for only 15 minutes a day, and 111dB for less than 2 minutes.

While one exposure to these types of noise will not likely cause permanent hearing loss, we should be worried about the long-term effect of these noises on ears. Noise-induced hearing loss most commonly occurs due to repeated exposures to sound over 85 dB, and the hearing loss will continue to worsen with each exposure.

To protect your children, always be aware of toys with which they are playing, and never let them place noisy toys right next to their ear. If you hold the toy within 10-12 inches and you think it’s startling or annoyingly loud, then it is likely too loud for your child. Try toys out in the store before you buy them, and make the right choices for the safety of your little ones. If possible, choose toys that have a volume control on them. If you have noisy toys already in your child’s possession, you can place tape over the speakers. This will significantly reduce the noise levels, but be sure to still monitor the play of your child.

If you suspect hearing loss in your child, talk with your health care provider to see if a referral to an audiologist may be warranted. Additionally, there are online resources to educate you about recognizing noise hazards, hearing loss and ways to keep your child’s hearing safe. A quick internet search will reveal myriad resources for you and your child.

You do everything to keep your child safe. Hearing loss is an invisible injury that can have a long-term impact on the development of your child. Do all that you can to prevent your child from overexposure to hazardous noise.

Sight & Hearing Association’s Noisy Toys List 2012

Toy Manufacturer Age Group Type of Toy dB(A) 0 inches dB(A) 10 inches
Disney Pixar Toy Story Talking Figure Buzz Lightyear* Mattel,Inc 3+ hand-held 111 81.6
Nickleodeon Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Leonardo’s Electronic Sword* Playmates Toys 4+ hand-held 109.2 81.6
Dora the Explorer/Dora’s Desert Friends Publications Int’l., Ltd. 18+ mo. hand-held 108.2 80.4
Barbie Little Learner Laptop Oregon Scientific 3+ lap or table 108 83.8
Playskool/123 Sesame Street Let’s Rock Grover Microphone Hasbro 18m-4y hand-held 107.3 79.3
B. Woofer (Guitar) Mason Joseph Battat, Ltd. 2-6 yrs. hand-held 106.5 80.4
Matchbox/Power Shift Fire Truck Mattel,Inc 3+ floor 105.7 83
Playskool/ Rock-tivity Jump n ‘Jam Guitar Hasbro 9+ mo. hand-held 105.1 77.4
Fisher-Price/Disney Pixar Cars Shake ‘n Go!El materdor Mattel,Inc 3-7 yrs. hand-held or floor 105 80.9
Twister Dance* Hasbro 8+ floor 104.6 77.7
Littlest Pet Shop/Sing-a-Song Pup Hasbro 4+ hand-held 103.8 73.1
Marvel Avengers Iron Man Mission Mask Hasbro 6+ wear on face 101.7 76
Fisher-Price/Disney Baby Rockin’ Tunes Dumbo Mattel,Inc 6-36 mo. hand-held 95.7 72.1
Alphabet Airlines Leap Frog 9+ mo. floor 94.6 69.9
Playskool/Lullaby Gloworm* Hasbro Birth+ hand-held 89.9 76.3
The sing-a-ma-jigs!* Fisher-Price, Inc. 3+ hand-held 89.6 75.6
Playskool/123 Sesame Street Elmo’s Cell Phone Hasbro 18m-4y hand-held 88.5 69.3
PBS Kids/Dinosaur Train InterAction Tiny Pteranodon* Learning Curve Brand, Inc. 3+ hand-held 87.6 66.2
Baby’s First Sing & Learn The Goldberger Co., LLC Birth+ hand-held 86.3 67.8
Figit Friends Newbies* Mattel,Inc 6+ hand-held 86.3 68.7

Decibel (dB) level measurements taken with a hand-held digital sound level meter (Digital Instruments, model SL-814), calibrated to manufacturer’s specifications, A-weighted scale, set at a slow response time to capture the average sound level. 0 inches equals the child’s ear to the toy. 10 inches equals a child’s arm length away from the toy.

*Internet reviewed as popular/recommended/top rated/top selling toys for 2012.

Table used with permission from Sight and Hearing Association.

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