December 10, 2007

As consumers snap up electronic toys as gifts for all ages, another, very real danger is being overlooked, according to the American Speech Language Hearing Association (ASHA).

ASHA reports the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) failed to list the risk of hearing damage from noisy toys or electronic devices in news release distributed by the commission November 20. ASHA notes electronics are among the fastest-growing segment of the toy market, and are being marketed to younger and younger children.

"It is up to adults to safeguard our children and protect them from dangers that we can easily avoid, including lead, choke hazards and hearing damage from loud toys or playing videogames and music too loud, too long," Noma Anderson, PhD, president of ASHA, says.

Loud toys and personal listening technologies that are not used safely pose a threat to ears of all ages, according to ASHA. Once damaged, ears do not heal. For children, hearing loss can also lead to other problems, including difficulties in academic and social development, the organization reports.

ASHA has released guidelines intended to help parents learn how to protect their children’s hearing and teach them safe listening habits. The guidlines are as follows:

— If you must raise your voice to be heard, it is loud enough to damage hearing.

 — When evaluating toys for small children, bear in mind that their arms are short and they tend to hold toys close to their face, making noises even louder.

 — If you can hear music from someone else’s earphones three feet away, it’s too loud.

 — Give your ears a break from continuous listening.

 — Upgrade headphones so that they isolate music from background noise. Lower volumes can then be used.

 — Set volume limiters before allowing children to use electronic items.

How to Recognize Hearing Loss in Children

 — Frequently misunderstands what is said and want things repeated

 — Difficulty following verbal instructions

 — Turns up the volume of the television, radio, or stereo

 — Difficulty listening or paying attention when there is noise in the background

 — Trouble identifying and/or localizing sounds

 — Reading, spelling, and other academic problems

 — Feelings of isolation, exclusion, annoyance, embarrassment, confusion, and helplessness

 — Behavior problems

 — Pulling or scratching at ears

 — A history of three or more ear infections

 — If you suspect hearing loss, seek the care and advice of a certified audiologist.

ASHA offers referrals and additional materials on hearing loss, including animated video of how sound damages the ear’s hair cells at

Source: ASHA