Trying to Keep from Toying with Young Ears

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It isn't all that hard to find a toy that lights up or makes noise these days.

"All our customers are more concerned with the 'in' items," said Gerda Menard, the College Station Toys R Us store director. "I guess children see them on TV and there's a lot of peer pressure, but that's really what's selling."

But the Sight and Hearing Association wants to make sure kids' ears are safe as holiday shopping winds down. The group conducted a test, at random, of nearly two dozen toys and calculated the noise they produced. Of those 22, five measured above 100 decibels, about the noise made by a jackhammer, and three of those were Play-a-Song or Play-a-Sound books. Exposure to those levels for prolonged periods could cause irreparable hearing damage.

"If the book is a good normal distance from them, probably the noise exposure won't be too dangerous," said Dr. Robert Herring, an audiologist with Central Texas Ear, Nose and Throat. "It's the child -- and like most children, they put it too close to their face -- that it could be dangerous. "

So if you're shopping for the holidays, check out the noise and see if it might be too loud. And if you do end up buying a noisy toy?

"Just supervise them," says Herring. "Don't let them get too close to their ear, and try to limit the amount of time they have with that toy. If it's loud to you, it's going to be loud to them."