Hearing management

05 January 2018

Could a noisy toy damage my child’s hearing?

Here’s what you should know about the effects of noisy toys on your child's hearing – especially with with the Christmas gifts lying around.


Parents, do you consider the noise a toy makes before you buy it? Or how that Christmas gift from a family member will affect your child's hearing? 

Toys that emit loud noises can have detrimental effects on young children. Hearing loss is irreversible, so it is important to protect your children’s hearing from an early age.

According to the American Speech Language Hearing Association, some toy sirens and squeaky toys can emit sounds of up to 90dBA – that’s as loud as a lawnmower.

In fact, people who work in environments where noise levels of 90dBA (and higher) are common are required to wear ear protection to protect their hearing. 

Dangerous noise levels

The problem with noisy toys is not just the noise that they emit. Children often hold toys directly to their ears, which exposes them to as much as 120dBA – which is as loud as a jet plane taking off.

Noise at this level is not only painful, but can also result in permanent hearing loss.

hearing, decibels, factoid, did you know

When you are looking to buy new toys, always check the sound levels. Hold the toy to your ear and listen to the noise it makes. If a toy sounds too loud, don’t buy it.

Do an audit on the toys your child already has. If any of them are too loud, you can remove the batteries or cover the speakers with tape. Get rid of any toys that could pose a risk to your child’s hearing.

The Sight & Hearing Association (SHA) suggests that you download a sound level meter app on your phone to measure the sound level of a toy.

Kathy Webb, executive director of SHA, adds: "Your ears will do just fine, because if a toy sounds too loud to you, it is too loud for a child's young ears.” 

Toys to avoid

Hearing loss doesn’t happen suddenly. Avoid buying these types of toys that may pose a risk to your child’s hearing:

  • Rattles and squeaky toys
  • Musical instrument toys
  • Toy phones
  • Toys that amplify or change the child’s voice
  • Toys that make firearm sounds

5 ways to deal with noisy toys

Hear-it, a non-commercial web, established to increase public awareness of hearing loss, has some practical tips on dealing with noisy toys:

1. Before you buy a toy, listen to all the sounds it can make by holding it close to your ears. If it sounds too loud to you, it will be too loud for your child.

2. If a toy comes with a warning that it should not be used close to the ears, don’t buy it – kids will forget to follow these instructions while playing.

3. Reduce the volume of a toy by sticking tape over the speakers.

4. Avoid buying toy guns with sound effects and toy musical instruments – these are often the noisiest types of toys.

5. A carpet or mat can help absorb noise.

Image credits: iStock


Ask the Expert

Hearing Expert

Dr Kara Hoffman graduated from UCT in 2004, thereafter she completed her year of community service in Durban. In 2010 she completed her Masters Degree in Paediatric Aural Rehabilitation from UKZN. In 2016, she became a Doctor of Audiology through the University of Arizona (ATSU). Dr Hoffman and her partner Lauren Thompson opened a fully diagnostic audiology practice called Thompson & Hoffman Audiology Inc. In 2011 with world-class technology and equipment to be able to offer the broad public all hearing-related services including hearing testing for adults and babies, vestibular (balance) assessments and rehabilitation, industrial audiology, hearing devices, central auditory processing assessments for school-aged children, school screening, neonatal hearing screening programmes at Alberlito and Parklands Hospital, cochlear implants and other implantable devices, medicolegal assessments and advanced electroacoustic assessments of hearing. Thompson and Hoffman Audiology Inc. are based at Alberlito Hospital in Ballito, St Augustines Hospital in Durban and at 345 Essenwood Road, Musgrave. The practices are all wheelchair friendly. There are three audiologists that practice from Thompson & Hoffman – including Dr Kara Hoffman, Lauren Thompson & Minette Lister. The practice boasts professional, highly qualified, and extensive diagnostic services where all your hearing healthcare needs can be met. The additional licensing in vestibular assessment and rehabilitation, paediatric rehabilitation and cochlear implantation places this practice in one of the top specialist audiological positions in South Africa, with a wealth of experience in all clinical areas of audiology and is a very well respected and sought-after practice.

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