ST. Paul, Minn — As we approach the holiday toy-giving season, the Sight & Hearing Association has identified some toys for young children that are naughty for young ears.

For the 13th year, the nonprofit organization and researchers from the University of Minnesota tested a variety of toys for potentially dangerous noise levels. Seven of 18 toys tested sounded out louder than 100 dB — similar to the blare of a chainsaw. An additional concern for parents may be that all of the toys tested are meant for children under the age of four, who have shorter arm lengths and will play with loud toys closer to their ears.

This year’s top loudest toys are the Bell Riderz Block Blaster and cars Shake ’N Go Ramone, which emitted their sounds at 129.2 and 119.5 decibels (dB), respectively.

According to National Institute of Occupational Health and Safety (NIOSH) standards, that level leads to a risk of hearing damage almost instantly.

In fact, reports the Sight & Hearing Association, sounds that are 85 dB or louder can permanently damage ears. The louder the sound, the less time it takes to cause damage. For example, a sound at 85 dB may take as long as eight hours to cause permanent damage, while a sound at 100 dB can start damaging hair cells after only 15 minutes of listening.

According to NIOSH, part of the Centers for Disease Control, the permissible exposure time (the amount of time one should listen) is cut in half with every 3 decibels over 85 dB.

Because of a child’s shorter arm span, toys are often potentially more dangerous because children hold them closer to their ears. In the Sight & Hearing Association study, the toys were tested at distances simulating how a child might hold the toy, directly near the ear (0 inches) and at arm’s length (10 inches). A soundproof booth was used to ensure an accurate recording.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission does not have regulations that address the loudness of toys. Another regulatory agency, the American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM), has a standard called F963 that recognizes noise levels. Those standards state a hand-held, table-top or crib toy should not exceed 90 dB at 25 cm. However, compliance with the standard is voluntary.

To protect a child’s hearing, the Sight & Hearing Association offers the following tips:

  • Listen to a toy before you buy it. If it sounds loud to you, it’s too loud for your child.
  • Report a loud toy. Call the Consumer Product Safety Commission at 800/638-2772 or the Sight & Hearing Association at 800/992-0424, or contact via e-mail at [email protected].
  • Put masking or packing tape over the speaker on the toy. This will help reduce the volume.
  • Buy toys with volume controls.

“Noise-induced hearing loss is cumulative,” explains Julee Sylvester, Sight & Hearing Association spokesperson, in the press release. “It doesn’t typically happen from one event; it gradually happens over time. That’s why it’s important to start protecting hearing at a young age.”

Download the latest list of noisy toys for 2010 here.

SOURCE: Sight & Hearing Association