Brennan Haselton, wtop.com
WASHINGTON -- It's supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year, but a new toy that lights up a child's eyes might not have the same effect on his ears.
Unfortunately, for those with visions of sugarplums, new research shows many common toys have potentially dangerous noise levels.
For the past several years, the Sight & Hearing Association and researchers from the University of Minnesota have tested the noise created by a variety of toys. This year, 19 of 24 toys tested by the group raised a racket over 100 decibels.
The association says exposure to noise levels above 85 decibels for eight hours is the federal threshold for hearing protection. Levels above 90 decibels can cause permanent hearing loss with relatively short exposure.
"Noise-induced hearing loss is cumulative," says association spokesperson Julee Sylvester. "It doesn't typically happen from one event. It gradually happens over time. That's why it's important to start protecting hearing at a young age."
WTOP purchased five of the toys on the list to have a look and take a listen. Check out the audio at right to experience the cacophony yourself.
The toy manufacturers stand by their products.
"Our 4-inch Darth Vader has been fully tested, and is definitely well within the accepted range," says Robyn Morgan, licensing director for the manufacturer Underground Toys.
Mattel and Fisher-Price, sister companies which sell the Toy Story Garbage Truck and Finn McMissile, responded to WTOP inquiry with this statement:
"We are extremely careful in establishing appropriate volume levels in our toys. We use a sound standard to assure compliance with sound regulations worldwide. We have also worked closely with established audiologists to confirm that our standards are safe and appropriate for children based on sound science."
Black & Decker and Hasbro, which makes the Elmo guitar, have not responded to calls and emails for comment.
(Copyright 2011 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)