Popular toys found on annual noisy toy list

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You may need to keep an eye and an ear on the toys your children receive this Christmas.

Whether it came from Santa or from a well-meaning family member, there are several popular children’s toys on this year’s noisy toy list.

For the last 15 years the Sight & Hearing Association has been testing toys to make sure they don’t pose a risk to hearing. This year’s testing revealed that 12 out of 20 toys tested produced sound over 100 decibels.

To be considered safe, sounds should not exceed 85 dB.

This year’s top offender was Disney’s Pixar Buzz Lightyear Talking Figure, made by Mattell, which measured in at a 111 dB, about as loud as a chainsaw. The Buzz Lightyear figure is intended for ages 3 and up.

Surprisingly, it wasn’t until as late as 2009 that industry guidelines were developed to regulate the volume level of toys. However, experts argue the new guidelines are still too lax. As this year’s list demonstrates, there is clearly room for improvement.

Since most children play with toys at about an arm’s length or in some cases will put their ears right up to the speaker, researchers at the Sight & Hearing Association measure sound levels at the speaker of the toy and also at a distance of about 10 inches. These measurements are considered to be a more accurate reflection of real-world use.

Noise-induced hearing loss is almost always preventable. Here’s some simple tips to keep your children’s hearing safe this holiday season:

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 1-800-638-2772 or the Sight & Hearing Association at 1-800-992-0424 or email ReportAToy@sightandhearing.org.

Put masking tape over the speaker on the toy to help reduce the overall volume.

Noise measurement Apps can be downloaded to your smartphone and can be used to estimate if the noise levels are safe.

Buy toys with volume controls.

For more, check the Sight & Hearing Association website at www.sightandhearing.org or American Academy of Audiology at www.howsyourhearing.com.

A complete 2012 Noisy Toy List is available at: www.ata.org/NoisyToys2012

Dr. Kevin Liebe is an audiologist at Columbia Basin Hearing Center (www.ColumbiaBasinHearing.com) and writes on various topics relating to hearing loss and public health.

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