The winter holidays are a time for giving and sharing! The holidays provide many opportunities to spend time with family and friends, enjoy some festive cheer together, and attend a holiday show or musical performance. This is a good time to remember to protect your hearing — and your children’s hearing.
Choosing gifts for kids? Consider whether that toy you’re considering can get so loud, it could actually be a hazard. Toys that are at or above 85 A-weighted decibels can contribute to noise-induced hearing loss over time.
Each year, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) Education Fund conducts a survey of toys sold in stores and online to identify those that could be unsafe for children. In addition to looking at factors such as whether a toy has small parts that could be a choking hazard, or has toxic chemicals that children could ingest, the group looks at whether a toy produces sounds loud enough to contribute to hearing damage over time. The PIRG makes recommendations to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), the federal agency that enforces safety standards in toys and other products. Read the full PIRG report, Trouble in Toyland.
Here are some tips to help keep the noise down during the holidays:
- Pack hearing protectors, such as earplugs or earmuffs, if you’re attending a concert or other loud festivities. Music events can register at or above 120 decibels—that’s roughly as loud as an ambulance siren.
- If you buy tickets for movies, concerts, or sporting events as gifts, consider including hearing protectors, such as earplugs or earmuffs. (This applies to gifts for adults as well as children!)
- Did your child get a new noisy toy? If the racket is driving you crazy, it’s probably too loud. Consider putting masking or packing tape over the toy’s speaker. This should muffle the sound enough to make it safe for everyone. Some toys have volume controls to lower the volume or turn off the sound completely.
- Buy quiet gifts. Look for toys or gadgets with low-volume settings or ones that make no sound at all, such as books or puzzles.
- Test out toys in the store to check sound levels before buying them. Ask yourself, “Is this too loud?” If so, find another toy with a softer sound. Also ask, “Can I control the volume on the toy and maintain a lower level of noise output?”
- Limit “screen time” to cut back on noise. Televisions, tablet computers, and video games contribute to high sound levels in the home.
- Avoid competing noises in the same area. Tell your kids they can turn on only one toy at a time.