Noisy toys

Things that go shrill, ring, clatter or click can make fun toys for kids. But they can also be a hazard, and loud or shrill sounds can damage a child’s hearing.

The basics

Young children and infants have sensitive hearing and often can’t protect themselves from loud noises. That’s why parents and caregivers should be aware that a noisy toy could easily damage a child’s hearing.

Hearing can be damaged by a single event such as an explosion, or by repeated exposure to high noise levels. This damage is cumulative, often permanent, and is mostly preventable.

Damaged hearing can affect a child’s development, making it hard for them to learn and socialise.

Using toys that make a noise

Be careful when allowing older children or adults to use a noise producing toy around young children and infants. A toy may not be very noisy in the hands of an infant, but an older child with more strength and coordination could easily produce much more noise.

Remember, under the age of 18 months a child’s hearing is at its most sensitive. At this age a child can’t easily get away from or shield themselves from a loud noise. That’s why it’s important to buy toys suitable for the age.

For babies, try to buy a toy that makes a noise at about the same level as a conversation — that’s around 60dB. The toy should be kept well away from a baby’s head.

Sound advice

We've worked with Massey University to assess noise levels produced by toys. We believe that the levels in the current standard may lead to hearing damage.

Marketplace surveys have identified mobile phone toys which produce noise levels similar to those of a chainsaw. When used close to the ear, noise should be kept to a level under 60dB to avoid damage to hearing. The survey also found that squeeze toys produce very high noise levels, so we recommend that these are not held in front of baby’s face or ears.

Be aware — cap guns can produce a bang as loud as 140dB.

Sound scale

SoundIntensity in decibels (dB)
fireworks 140 dB
chainsaw 120 dB
classical music 100 dB
alarm clock 80 dB
conversation, dishwasher 60 dB
moderate rainfall 50 dB
quiet room 40 dB
whisper 30 dB