Can toys be damaging to hearing?

August 15, 2011 by David Mayer

Can toys be damaging to hearing?

The toys industry generates 60 billion dollars in annual revenues and is a $1.4-billion business in Canada. Sixty per cent of all toy purchases are made at Christmastime alone. Anyone who is in contact with children knows that battery-powered sound-producing toys are extremely noisy and increasingly prevalent (63% of Fisher-Price toys and 54% of Little Tikes toys for children under the age of three make noise).
The noise produced by such toys not only gets on parents’ nerves, but some even reach decibel levels high enough to cause temporary or permanent hearing damage.

Studies have shown that, in addition to causing auditory damage, noise also increases children’s stress levels, which can lead to hormonal imbalances in the short term, and cardiovascular, immune system and digestive problems in the long term.

Current legislation in Canada bans toys and electronic games that emit noise levels exceeding 100 dB at a distance of 30 cm. However, the safety standard recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO) is 75 dB for a period of
8 hours. As such, listening to noise from a toy that emits sound above 100 dB for 2 to 15 minutes can cause hearing damage. Moreover, children tend to hold noisy toys close to their ears, which is closer than the distance prescribed by law. In 2004, a study led by Option consommateurs revealed that while only 5% of the toys studied did not comply with the law, all of them exceeded safety standards if the child holds the toy up against his or her ear.

In 2004, a coalition was formed to push for changes to the current legislation and educate the public about the dangers of noisy toys. Despite its best efforts, the same laws, which date back to the 1970s, are still in force today.

It is thus up to consumers to protect their children by choosing not to buy excessively noisy toys or by opting for toys with a volume control and decreasing the amount of time spent playing with these toys. Parents can also cover speakers with masking tape to lower the volume of some noisy toys.

For further information, do not hesitate to consult a hearing health professional.

Can toys be damaging to hearing?

Guénette, Maryse. ”Jouets sonores à piles : trop bruyants pour vos enfants !“. Consommation. Fall 2004.
– CANADIAN ASSOCIATION OF SPEECH-LANGUAGE PATHOLOGISTS AND AUDIOLOGISTS (CASLPA). “CASLPA Calls On Prime Minister for Action on Noisy Toys”. Press release. April 8, 2008.
– NATIONAL COALITION ON NOISY TOYS. ”Noisy Toys – NOT For those delicate little ears this Christmas“. Press release. December 2004.
– GUÉNETTE, Maryse. ”Jouets sonores à piles: trop bruyants pour vos enfants !“. Consommation. Fall 2004, 6 p.
– LAROCQUE, Richard and Marie-Catherine ARSLANIAN. ”Les jouets bruyants pour bambins : une cacophonie à risque ?“. Supporting documentation for a presentation given at The Montreal Children’s Hospital on May 25, 2009.