AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

The holidays are a wonderful and fun time to go shopping. But, while you are out buying presents for your family members, especially the kids, it is important to read the warning labels for age-appropriate toys, small parts, and other things that may be harmful. This also includes the noise level that a toy registers.

Why is this important?

Noise is the No. 1 cause of hearing loss. In fact, by first grade, less than 1 percent of all kids have hearing loss by the time they are teenagers and 20 percent of all kids have some sort of hearing loss. There are a few factors that can be attributed to this rapidly changing number.

The Arizona Commission for the Deaf and the Hard of Hearing (ACDHH) says 85 decibels (dB) is the maximum volume a child should be exposed to for no more than eight hours. Decibels are a unit of measurement to gauge volume and decibel volume is measured in several industries including construction and engineering to ensure hearing safety. Sounds over 100 dB can damage hearing in less than 15 minutes of exposure.

In 2012, the Sight and Hearing Association (SHA) stated that 19 of the 24 most popular toys tested were over 100 dB.

Topping the list:

• Toy Story Talking Figure Buzz Lightyear — 111dB near the ear, 81.6 at arm’s length.

• Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Leonardo’s Electronic Sword — 109.2dB near the ear, 81.6 at arm’s length.

• Dora the Explorer/Dora’s Desert Friends — 108.2dB near the ear, 80.4 at arm’s length.

• Barbie Little Learner Laptop — 108dBnear the ear, 83.8 at arm’s length.

• 123 Sesame Street Let’s Rock Grover Microphone — 107.3dBnear the ear, 79.3 at arm’s length.

What can be misleading is the distance at which the decibels are measured. As we know, most kids are not keeping toys at arm’s length, they use them closer than that and most often right next to their precious ears.

Along with watching the decibel levels of the toys children play with, parents should also monitor their children when playing video games, watching TV or listening to music; there should be time and volume limits that the children are exposed. Noise reducing or volume limiting headphones are a good investment and it is important to remember that if you can hear the music beyond the ear buds it is much too loud.

According to the American Speech Language Hearing Association you should also examine toys you already have at home. Remove the batteries or discard the toys if they are too noisy and pose a potential danger to you and your child’s hearing. An alternative measure could be to place tape over the speakers on noisy toys.

Children should be regularly screened for hearing loss, something that is not routinely done by doctors during a yearly check-up. By detecting the early onset of hearing loss, appropriate measures can be taken to prevent further damage.

“While you are out shopping this holiday season a good rule of thumb is that if a toy seems too loud to you, it is probably too loud for your child,” said Sherri Collins, executive director of the Arizona Commission for the Deaf and the Hard of Hearing. “What most people don’t realize is that once you lose your hearing, it is not something that will come back.”

• Michele Michaels is hard of hearing specialist at the Arizona Commission for the Deaf and the Hard of Hearing. For more information, visit www.acdhh.org.

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