Groupe Forget - Polyclinique de l'Oreille

Noisy toys: dangerous for the ears?

The holiday season is coming fast and you are already thinking about the toys you will give to your little one?

If you have young children, you will notice soon enough that most noisy toys intended for them are loud, even too loud. Are we putting our children’s hearing at risk?

The danger of noise exposure

To fully understand the danger of noise exposure, it’s all a question of decibels (intensity) and duration of exposure. The shorter the exposure time, the higher the number of decibels can be before causing hearing damage.

The generally recognized safe maximum is an exposure of 85 decibels for 8 hours. Thus, if the noise increases to 88dB, the permitted exposure time is 4 hours. For a sound of 100dB, it’s 15 minutes.

Regulations on noisy toys

According to an Health Canada law, no toy must emit a sound exceeding 100dB (equivalent to noise in a nightclub) at a distance that would normally separate the toy from the ear of the child using it.

In contrast, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates 70 dB as the recognized safe standard for exposure to noise during leisure activities.

It is therefore obvious that Canadian law is outdated and far too permissive for toy companies. Especially since young children often tend to place toys close to their face, making the noise level much higher in the ear. Many noisy toys are unfortunately unsafe in Canada, particularly if the child plays with them for more than 15 minutes.

Noisy environments for young children

Young children are already exposed to significant noise levels in daycare. Exposure to loud sound toys at home only further increases their risk of having a hearing problem.

Little tips:

  • Before buying a toy, find out how loud it is and choose ones that have a volume (or on/off) button.
  • Limit the time noisy toys are used, show the child how to use the toys (at arm’s length), or stick a small piece of tape over the speaker.
  • The simplest rule is that if you have to raise your voice to compete with the noise of the toy to be heard, the noise is too loud and may damage your child’s hearing.
  • It’s also important to educate your children about the impact of noise on hearing and encourage them to turn down the volume of their headphones when playing on their gaming tablet.

Do you have concerns about your child’s hearing?

Make an appointment with an audiologist for a complete evaluation. Pediatric evaluations (8 months to 4 years) are offered at several Polyclinique de l’Oreille clinics, as well as at all our clinics for children aged 5 +.

BY Andrea Bissonnette, Audiologist, Polyclinique de l’Oreille