How often have you found yourself asking your child to step out of the house due to the nuisance created by his/her toy? It must’ve been so annoying that you actually had to ask your child to leave. But have you ever wondered the effect that a toy, which could irritate you from a considerable distance, have on your child’s hearing when he/she holds it so close? Devastating, isn’t it? Gone are the days when toys for kids were simple rattles and stuffed teddy bears. Kids nowadays like everything electronic (mobiles, pads, tablets) or something that replicates electronic toys, like toy mobiles, swish cars, talking toms, etc. However, these noisy toys could have noise levels which may be way above the acceptable decibel limits for a normal hearing. Add to that, there are regular jarring sounds that your child is exposed to on a daily basis – the blaring traffic horns, television sounds, or loudspeakers playing songs at a function, etc. All this is especially harmful to babies and toddlers since their body is still undergoing development.
So, how do these toys actually cause harm? First, we need to understand what is noise and how our hearing works. Any undesirable sound that causes nuisance is noise. Our ear is divided into three parts – Outer Ear, Middle Ear, and Inner Ear. When a sound is emitted, the outer ear absorbs it like a funnel and passes it on to the eardrum, which vibrates and causes mechanical movement of the 3 tiny bones inside the middle ear. The middle ear then passes these mechanical movements as vibrations to inner ear or cochlea. The cochlea has small sensory hair cells that convert these vibrations into electrical impulses and pass them to the brain through auditory nerves. Such is the delicate and fine structure of the human ear that helps us hear.
Now, when your child is playing with one of his/her favorite toy, like a singing doll or a flashy musical car, the noise emitted by these toys, which easily irritates the normal adult ear, is approximately 90 decibels. This is similar to the sound of a lawnmower or a big vacuum cleaner, which is way beyond the limit of tolerance for kids. Now imagine the danger your kid is exposed to when he/she unwittingly holds it close to their ear. According to a study conducted on different types of toys and the noise emitted by them, many of the toys were found to be noisy beyond the limit of tolerance of the delicate cochlear (inner ear) (1). The acceptable decibel limit for a toy is up to a maximum of 85 decibels, that too if the exposure is not for too long. Ignoring the effects of such harmful toys could lead to a temporary, or worse, permanent hearing loss in your child!
Now that you know the harmful effects of a noisy toy, here’s what you can do to protect your child.
Create A Noise-Free Environment: Check for all noise-causing stuff around your child’s play area/room. Limit his/her exposure to television; lower the volume of your CD player, your mobile’s ringtone, etc, when you are around your child.
Double-Check Toys Before Buying: Before you buy a toy, make sure you ask for a demo to understand it’s noise level. If a demo is not possible and you have doubts, it’s best to avoid it. However, if you already have noisy toys at home, cover its speaker with a cotton pad taped onto it.
Make Your Child Aware: Avoid shopping toys with children. Even if you do, do not give in to their absurd demands. Remember, children demand a toy without any knowledge about it, but simply because they have seen it with someone else. Make them understand what is best for them and reward them for it by getting them something else they like. They are sure to appreciate your gesture.
Follow these simple tips to safeguard your child’s hearing from harmful effects of noise. It’ll also help you have a peaceful atmosphere at home too.