St Paul, Minn — ‘Tis the season for shopping for toys, as well as the annual Noisy Toy List compiled by Sight & Hearing Association (SHA). Now in its 14th year, the organization and its University of Minnesota research partners have tested 24 popular toys and found that 19 of the 24 toys (nearly 80%) had noise levels louder than 100 dB.

The University of Minnesota researchers tested a variety of toys, which were taken right off the shelves of local toy stores. Disney’s Cars 2 Shake ’N Go Finn McMissile, manufactured by Fisher Price, was at the top of the list. The researchers measured the toy’s internal speaker blaring at 124 dB. According to National Institute of Occupational Health and Safety (NIOSH) standards, that level leads to a risk of hearing damage almost instantly.

“It was surprising how loud many of these toys were,” said David Montag, MD, an otolaryngologist and resident at the University of Minnesota’s department of otolaryngology, who tested the toys. “Noises greater than 85 dB have been shown to cause hearing loss. Many of the tested toys exceed this even when tested 10 inches from the speaker.”

Until 2009, toy manufacturers were not required to follow any guidelines regarding the sound level of toys. Today, all toys must meet the acoustic standard set by the American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM) (ASTM F963-08), which states the sound-pressure level produced by all other toys except close-to-the-ear toys shall not exceed 85 dB 50 cm from the surface of the toy. However, the standard may not be strong enough to protect a child’s hearing.

SHA notes that most kids play with toys by holding them or sitting right next to them, not at 50 cm away, which is just over 1.5 feet. As it has done for the past 14 years, SHA tests toys at distances simulating how a child might hold the toy, typically, directly near the ear (0 inches) and at arm’s length (10 inches).

“We do this test two ways because we want to know exactly what these toys are capable of producing in a real play situation,” explains Julee Sylvester, SHA spokesperson, in the press statement. “In other words, how loud can these toys get?”

The full 2011 Noisy Toy List is available for download here (PDF).

SOURCE: The Sight & Hearing Association