How do loud toys impact children’s hearing development?
As we get older, our hearing health is pushed into the foreground due to the natural decline of our aural abilities, but for many, this decline comes as a direct consequence of the loud noises one experiences throughout their life. Typically, we think of heavy machinery or guns when it comes to the things that cause us to lose our hearing, and while those are definitely contributors, loud toys can also do a lot of damage to a child’s developing ears. This article will highlight the dangers that some toys pose to the development of our children’s hearing and recommend steps to protect and foster that delicate process.
In the first couple months after a child is born, they will cross four milestones that are important to the development of their hearing and speech abilities. In the first month of life, newborns will be startled by loud noises because they are just beginning to acclimate to the world around them. By three months, children begin to understand and be soothed by their parents’ voices. At six months, rather than be afraid of the new noises, kids should become curious and mimic the sounds they’re hearing, until they eventually start babbling and saying words like “mama” or “bye-bye” at 12 months. Each stage of a child’s hearing development is important to their speech and their greater understanding of the world around them, so how do toys impact children’s hearing during that pivotal first year?
If you bought a toy for your child there’s a chance that it might produce enough noise to damage their hearing. Toy sirens and squeaky toys can be as loud as a lawnmower at 85 decibels (dB,) and if they hold these toys to their ears, they can potentially expose themselves to nearly 125 dB. To put that into perspective, 125 dB is equivalent to a jet taking off. Exposure like that is damaging to any person’s hearing, and working adults are even required to wear hearing protection at decibel levels like that. So, how can parents do better to protect their kids’ development?
Most importantly, listen to the toy. If it’s loud to you it’s going to be loud to the kid, and if it’s a toy at home, take out the batteries, place some duct tape over the speaker to muffle the sound or discard the toy entirely. If you’re not sure whether the toy is quiet enough, check out the Sight and Hearing Association’s database of the noisiest toys. They update it every year for the holidays, so make sure to take a peek at that before making any off the cuff purchases.
Hearing is a precious thing, but for young children, it’s imperative in their journey to become better humans. Be mindful of the noises around you and your kids, and be sure to bring a pair of earmuffs or plugs wherever you go. You never know when a loud noise is going to strike.