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Parents advised to limit kids' use of noisy toys

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) -Some toys emit noise at a high enough level to cause permanent hearing damage if they are held too close to the ear, new research from the UK shows. "With most toys, your child will only damage their hearing if they use them for too long a duration, or if they stick them in their ear," Dr. Brad Backus, a research fellow at University College London's Ear Institute who performed the study, said in a press release. "Our advice is pretty simple: don't let your child hold noisy toys too close to their ear, and don't let them play with them for more than an hour a day."

In a study commissioned by Deafness Research UK, Backus tested the noise levels of 15 popular toys for children aged 3 months to 15 years. The recommended top noise limit for toys is 85 decibels. Prolonged exposure to noise above this level can cause permanent hearing damage.

Eight of the toys emitted an average of 81 to 105 decibels when held 25 centimeters from the testing microphone, roughly arm's length for a child. Pixar Cars "Lightning McQueen" emitted 82.5 decibels, while Laser Command's noise level was 88.6 decibels.

But when held at 2.5 centimeters from the microphone, approximating the distance if the toy was held close to the ear, 14 of the toys, including Fireman Sam's Action Jupiter and Tomy's "Spin n' Sound" remote controlled car, had average noise levels between 84 and 115 decibels. The only toy with noise levels below the safety threshold was a VTECH cell phone for babies.

Toy guns were the worst offenders, emitting 120 to 140 decibels when held at arm's length and 130 to 143 decibels when held close to the ear. Noise of 140 decibels or above can cause immediate hearing damage.

"If I had children, I wouldn't give any of these gun-toys to them," noted Backus, who said his ears were ringing after testing the guns. "And I would recommend that people avoid them. They have the very real potential to cause permanent hearing loss."