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HOLIDAY TOYS: Which toys can cause hearing issues in your child

HOUSTON – The Sight and Hearing Association released its annual list of noisy toys. It said 16 toys out of 24 tested louder than 85 decibels. That is the official measurement considered “too loud,” even deafening by the National Institute of Occupational Health and Safety.

What is most alarming, according to the Sight & Hearing Association, is that the top two toys this year are intended for infants under the age of six months. 

Bright Starts™ Safari Beats musical toy and Spin & Sing Alphabet Zoo by LeapFrog tested at 102.1 dB and 102 dB, which hearing specialists say can damage hearing in less than 15 minutes when placed near a child's ear.

Both toys are engaging and educational, but do toys really need to produce deafening sounds to teach us rhythm or our ABC's? Audiologist with UT Health, Caryn McLellan, said no.

“Pediatric hearing loss, noise-induced pediatric hearing loss is rising. So we do want to be really careful to teach good listening habits at an early age,” she explained.

You think you're making a good decision because these are educational toys.

The problem, McLellan said, is kids rarely use toys the way they're designed to be played with, and it can hurt their hearing.

“They're supposed to be played with at arm's length, kids rarely play with things way out here, it's much closer to their face, closer to their ear,” she said.

If your child receives a noisy toy this holiday season, there are a few things McLellan said you can do to make it quieter.

“Some of them have a volume control, so either if it has an actual volume control or maybe just a soft and loud setting, make sure you're setting it to the softer setting. You can also just take the batteries out. A lot of these toys are still fun to play with even if they're not making all these loud sounds,” McLellan recommended.

If it needs batteries to function, she suggested parents cover the speaker with tape to reduce the volume.

If you own a smartphone, there are free apps to download a sound level meter so you can measure the volume of any toy.