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Are loud toys on your Christmas shopping list? Be careful



Parents can use smartphone apps to test a toy's noise level.
Parents can use smartphone apps to test a toy's noise level.
Emily Orpin/Flickr

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Kids love loud toys. But Dr. Hamid Djalilian, an ear, nose and throat specialist at UC Irvine, says their ears don't.

Too loud

For the seventh year, Djalilian went to several stores and bought the loudest toys he could find. Then, in a double soundproof chamber, he measured their noises using a calibrated sound-level meter.

He measured more than two dozen toys that make noise about 85 decibels, a level that can cause irreversible hearing damage over eight hours, according to the CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

Among them was the Space Raider Glow Space Gun, which clocks in at 115 decibels. That's somewhere between a buzz saw and standing next to a speaker at a rock concert. Noises at that level can cause hearing damage in about 30 seconds, Djalilian says.

"The cells in the inner ear that are lost as a result of loud sound are lost forever, so you can't regenerate those cells," he says, adding that the damage will be compounded by age-related hearing loss later in life.

You can listen to the  Space Raider Glow Space Gun's sounds by clicking below, or via SoundCloud.

What can parents do?

This holiday season, Djalilian advises parents to avoid buying toys that are annoyingly loud to the adult ear. He says parents can even test toys before buying them, by using one of several apps that measure sound levels.

If a child really wants a loud toy, or it arrives as a gift, he suggests that parents mute the toy's speaker by covering it with tape or glue. He found that this tactic lowers the Space Raider Glow Space Gun's noise level to 93 decibels.

Djalilian also recommends that parents supervise their children's play with loud toys. When the Space Gun's speaker was covered up and it was held at arm's length from the ears, the noise level dropped to 74 decibels.

How loud is that toy?

Check out the chart below. You can also hear the sounds of the Power Rangers Mega Cannon and Twister Dance Rave.

Toy Recommended age Decibels Decibels when toy speaker is taped Decibels with tape and toy at arm's length
Fisher Price Laugh & Learn Click N Learn Remote Children under three years 101 95 66
Vetch Spin & Learn Color Flashlight Children under three years 98 84 71
Vetch Go Go Smart Wheels Children under three years 97 75 64
Bright Starts Click & Giggle Remote Children under three years 96 84 62
Leap Frog Chat & Count Smart Phone Children under three years 96 90 57
Thomas & Friend Light Up Talking Percy Children under three years 93 85 67
Vetch Little Smartphone Children under three years 91 81 58
Space Raider Glow Space Gun Children older than three years 115 93 74
Playskool Heroes Heat Wave The Rescue Robot Children older than three years 107 98 71
Power Rangers Mega Cannon Children older than three years 105 81 65
Road Ripper Mustang GT Children older than three years 103 91 64
Space Raider Armor Band Children older than three years 103 78 70
Rockin’ Doc Sing Along Boom Box Children older than three years 99 87 64
Dora The Explorer Singing Star Guitar Children older than three years 98 85 63
Dora & Friends Sing It Together Microphone Children older than three years 98 89 62
Despicable Me Fart Blaster Children older than three years 97 74 56
Woofer Just B. Just You. You Guitar Children older than three years 97 89 64
Frozen Cool Tunes Sing Along Boom Box Children older than three years 94 78 60
Dora and Friends Play It Two Ways Children older than three years 94 74 57
Wing Warrior Batman Children older than three years 93 84 61
First Act Discovery Microphone & Amplifier Children older than three years 92 86 64
Twister Dance Rave Children older than six years 107 101 73
Fisher Price Disney Princess Magical Music Maker Children older than six years 100.5 82 64
Simon Swipe Children older than six years 98 84 74
Hot Wheel RC Hyper Racer Children older than six years 98 87 76
Darth Vader Ultimate Fix Light Saber Children older than six years 96 72 64
Bob It Tetris Children older than six years 96 83 56