Deafening toys

Thousands of children will receive toys this Christmas that could leave them deaf. That’s the message from UK national charity Deafness Research UK.

According to Brad Backus of University College London’s Ear Institute in a report commissioned by the charity, almost every noisy toy they tested produced noise levels above the recommended safety limit of 85dB(A) when held close to the ear. Prolonged exposure to noise levels above 85dB(A) can cause hearing loss. Half of the toys tested had levels above or very near recommended safety limits when measured at 25 cm – about an arm’s length away.

Not surprisingly, the most hazardous toys were toy guns. A mechanical toy machine gun, a plastic tommy gun, and a cap gun were tested and all were found to have noise levels that exceed recommended limits. It sounds like scaremongering and yet another nanny-ist intervention, but at these noise levels such toy guns could cause serious damage and even instant hearing loss.

Among the toys tested were Pixar Cars “Lightening McQueen”, Fireman Sam’s Action Jupiter and Tomy’s “Spin n’Sound” remote-controlled car. Only one toy, the VTECH mobile phone for babies, was found to have a noise level below the safety threshold although the Pixar toy too had a level just below the threshold at 82.5dB(A).

“Children’s toys clearly have the potential to do harm to their hearing so it’s important that people are aware of the dangers and what to do about them,” says Backus, “With most of the toys we tested, apart from the guns, there is a potential for harm but they’re safe if used sensibly. With most toys, your child will only damage their hearing if they use them too often and for too long a duration, or if they stick them in their ear.”

You can get more advice and help if you suspect your child has a hearing problem by contacting Deafness Research UK on 0808 808 2222.