December 10, 2007 
With all the emphasis on lead paint in recalled toys, health advocates say another, very real threat is being overlooked.

The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association warns that many popular toys can negatively affect hearing.

When the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) released a list of unsafe toys last month, the ASHA says hearing damage from noisy toys or electronic devices was missing from the list. Yet electronics are one of the fastest-growing segments of the toy market, and are being marketed to younger and younger children.

It is up to adults to safeguard our children and protect them from dangers that we can easily avoid, including lead, choke hazards and hearing damage from loud toys or playing videogames and music too loud, too long, said Noma Anderson, Ph.D. president of ASHA.

Loud toys and personal listening technologies that arent used safely pose a threat to ears of all ages. Once damaged, ears do not heal. For children, hearing loss can also lead to other problems, including difficulties in academic and social development.

As younger and younger children are asking for and receiving electronic toys and music devices like MP3s and iPods, it is critical that parents learn how to protect their childrens hearing and teach them safe listening habits.

The group offers these simple guidelines:

• If you must raise your voice to be heard, it is loud enough to damage hearing.

• When evaluating toys for small children, bear in mind that their arms are short and they tend to hold toys close to their face, making noises even louder.

• If you can hear music from someone elses earphones three feet away, its too loud.

• Give your ears a break from continuous listening.

• Upgrade headphones so that they isolate music from background noise. Lower volumes can then be used.

• Set volume limiters before allowing children to use electronic items.

• is a fun website created by hearing experts and educators with video games for kids, and information for teachers, parents and reporters to learn about hearing safety. The site is also available in Spanish.

A lawsuit filed last year against Apple claims its iPods are too loud and could damage users' hearing.

Lawyers for John Kiel Patterson charge the mp3 players are "inherently defective" in design and do not provide sufficient warning to consumers that the volume could result in hearing loss. The suit says the iPod can produce sounds at more than 115 decibels, which it says can damage hearing if exposed to as little as a half minute per day.