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All the Noise! Noise! Noise! Noise!

SD County wants loud toys to shut up.

— Every Christmas season brings somber statements from influential people who want to tell us which toys they disapprove of. And today San Diego County Supervisor Ron Roberts and the County Health Officer Wilma Wooten spoke of a new bane to holiday cheer: Noisy toys.

Santa Claus -- AKA Evan Moe -- attended a press conference about the danger of noisy toys, Monday, December 20, 2010. But he wasn't listening.
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Above: Santa Claus -- AKA Evan Moe -- attended a press conference about the danger of noisy toys, Monday, December 20, 2010. But he wasn't listening.

No… the problem is not the irritation parents suffer when they have to listen to their kids play with the damn things all day. A county press statement – headlined “Trouble in Toyland” – told us that children are especially vulnerable to noise-induced hearing loss, and parents should avoid toys and electronic games that emit noise “at unsafe levels.”

“First, a child’s ear canal is smaller than an adult's ear canal, so the noise is louder,” said Wooten. But it’s not just that. The other problem: Short arms.

“The farther you can hold it away, that decreases the loudness. So children, having short arms, it’s right there at the ears," she said.

Wooten and Roberts held a press conference in a room filled with many trappings you’d expect to see at a media event, including a baby dressed in a Santa Claus outfit and a colorful, “Avoid the Noise” poster. There was also a small collection of boisterous electronic toys, which included a toy car called the Baja Racer, a Pull and Play Phone and the Alphabet Apple, which tells you the ABC’s in a loud, cheerful voice.

At one point, Wooten held a decimeter up to the Alphabet Apple to measure its loudness, which she deemed acceptable. She said the same thing after testing the Baja Racer. So if those toys aren’t problems, which ones are?

She told reporters they’d get a list, which they did. It included toys with names like CAT mini Mover, B. FunKeys and (my favorite) True Heroes of Sonic Battle Blasters. Toys can begin to make you deaf if they’re louder than 85 decibels, just in case you want to examine them with your own personal decimeter.

Ron Roberts didn’t have a lot to say, though he complained about teenagers cranking their iPods too high.

The county’s statement also said loud toys can damage a child’s psychological health. Someone asked Wooten to expand on that and she tossed the question to Barbara Jimenez, director of the First 5 Commission, who said bad hearing can cause developmental problems that can lead to “frustration.”

Take that for what it’s worth. Just don’t give my children any noisy toys that are going to damage my psychological health.

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