Noise and our children’s hearing

November 10, 2016
6-bruits_petitsA red flag was raised many years ago concerning the danger of sound-making toys for children’s ears. Yet certain available products still exceed required standards.

Not all toys are that loud. But some are louder than we want. For example, some musical toys and phones produce a noise similar to the level of a lawn mower, or about 90 dB.1

The harmfulness of noise

The effects of loud noise on the body are well known and broad. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), an adult exposed to a noise level of 75 dB risks permanent hearing damage after 8 hours. In general, the higher the noise level, the sooner damage can occur. Thus, at a level of 90 dB, 15 minutes is all it takes. Compounded over time, hearing damage can lead to hearing loss. Noise can reduce speech comprehension, generate stress, and eventually affect the cardiovascular system. Children may be more vulnerable to the effects of noise than adults.2

Does the law protect children?

Manufacturers are required to sell toys with a volume of 100 dB or less. However, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) recommends a maximum of 65 dB for toys held close to the ears and 85 dB for others. Right now, toys that are safe according to the law could be harmful, especially if held close to the ears when not designed for such use. Despite the efforts of professionals, a new bill did not come to pass,3 and not all manufacturers include a mute mode. Some recent toys even exceed 100 dB when held close to the ears.1

What should we do?

For the time being, it is the consumers’ responsibility to choose the safest toys.

Here are some tips:

  • If the noise is not essential (rattle, doll, truck, etc.), choose a silent toy or remove the battery.
  • If the noise is essential, adjust the volume to the lowest setting if possible or put adhesive tape on the speakers.
  • Leave sound-making toys with your child for a shorter time and give them to your child less frequently.
  • Avoid firecrackers and imitation firearms. They often make impact noises higher than 110 dB.1
  • Give children silent toys at parties and make your family and friends aware!

Whether from sound-making toys, music players, or the workplace, noise is with us throughout life. Limiting exposure to loud noises from childhood will reduce the compounding of hearing damage and help preserve hearing and health in the short and long terms.

Consult an audiologist to find out more about the effects of noise.

References:

GHAVAMI, Y., BHATT, J., MADUCDOC, M., YAU, A., MAHBOUBI, H. et al., “Loudness and acoustic parameters of popular children’s toys.” International Journal of Pediatric Otorhinolaryngology, Vol. 79, No. 12, pp. 2086–2089. 2015.

Option-consommateurs. “La sécurité des jouets sonores : Une évaluation de la situation.” 2004. Online. http://www.option-con sommateurs.org/documents/principal/fr/File/rapports/jeux/ocjouets_sonores_fr1004.pdf. Consulted on July 15, 2016.

Orthophonie et Audiologie Canada (n.d.). “Jouets bruyants.” Online. http://oac-sac.ca/oac-%C3%A0-loeuvre/jouets-bruyants. Consulted on July 15, 2016.