Over the last month there have been a number of radio and television advertisements for “Christmas in July.” These ads prompted me to think about the toys we purchase our children for the holidays. Specifically, I am referring to those toys that emit beeps, bells, clicks, and sirens to attract the attention of children and terrorize their parents.
Gift givers need to know that some sound-emitting toys can be loud enough to cause damage to children’s ears. According to recent research, some toys can produce sounds that are as loud as a lawnmower at 90 decibels. Now, think about putting a lawnmower up to your ear.
According to Paul R. Kileny, Ph.D., Director of Audiology and Electrophysiology at The University of Michigan Health Systems’ Department of Otolaryngology, “Children’s hearing is particularly sensitive. While the inner ear is completely developed at birth and has the complete complement of hair cells, the ear canal is much smaller and sounds entering the ear canal become louder because they [resonate] in a smaller space. That can translate into as much as a 20-decibel difference between an adult ear and infant’s ear. Thus, infants’ ears can be damaged more easily than adults’ hearing.”
How will a parent know which toys are safe and which are potentially harmful?
A few rules to remember with regard to infants and toddler toys:
- If the toy sounds loud to you, it will be loud for your child.
- Check to see if the toy has a warning sticker about putting it up to the ear.
- If a toy is too loud, remove the batteries or the source of the noise.
- If a toy has a volume switch, always use the softer volume option.
Adolescents have noisy “toys” too. The use of personal audio players in the form of smart phones or otherwise has proven to be a detriment to our adolescents’ hearing. According to a 2016 article from The Hearing Journal, “the World Health Organization (WHO) already raised a red flag [regarding adolescent hearing], stating that “some 1.1 billion teenagers and young adults are at risk of hearing loss due to the unsafe use of personal audio devices.” The same article reported a greater incidence of tinnitus (sounds in the ears or head) in teens than the general population. Tinnitus has long been correlated with noise exposure in those that have been exposed to high intensity sound. It is imperative that we caution our children and adolescents of the risks of listening to loud music as well as other potentially harmful sound.
A few rules to remember with regard to adolescent activities and technology:
- Turn down the volume of the music.
- Wear ear protection at concerts.
- If your child uses headphones or earbuds while listening to music, and you are able to hear it while standing next to them, it is too loud, “Turn it Down.”
- While hunting or target shooting ear protection should always be worn.
Please remember: we only come with two ears, and once our hearing is damaged by noise it cannot be replaced.