PORTLAND, Ore. - We’ve all been there. You’re walking through the mall and you hear it - loud music coming from stores that teenagers love to hang out in.
That noise could leave you with a holiday shopping hangover, but did you know it can actually be hazardous to your health?
KATU On Your Side producers used a hidden camera and sound level meter to record overbearing music in several Portland stores.
It was so loud at the downtown Portland Abercrombie and Fitch, some shoppers walked out. Others refused to go in.
“Too loud. Too Loud. Ridiculous and unnecessary,” said Kirstin McFarlane and Danielle Delceppo, as they stood outside the store.
“I went in to get a gift certificate and I couldn’t even hear the sales lady talking to me,” said shopper Lacey Lydell.
Our hidden camera and sound meter measured the music in Abercrombie and Fitch at 90 decibels. The needle on the decibel reader hit 98 as our producers moved closer to the speakers.
That’s as loud as a chainsaw.
Audiologist Cindy Behrend says these high volume sales tactics are dangerous.
"If you're an arm's length away and you have to raise your voice or if you can't carry on a conversation with someone three feet away without having to yell really loud, it's too loud," she said.
The music was thumping close to 90 decibels at the Hollister store at the Lloyd Center. Nordstrom’s music in the teen section was coming in at the mid-80s range.
Audiologists say prolonged exposure to sounds above 85 decibels could cause permanent hearing loss. That means everyone working at the downtown Abercrombie and Fitch should be wearing hearing protection.
Employees could not talk to us on camera, but told us they’re not allowed to turn down the music, even though customers complain all the time. They say it’s their corporate policy.
Hollister is a subsidiary of Abercrombie and Fitch. The company did not return our calls. The club-like atmosphere in both stores is meant to pump up shoppers, but it seems to be backfiring in some cases.
“It's obnoxious and I can't focus,” said Lacey Lydell.
“It should be more of a calm environment that entices you to spend money,” said Danielle Delceppo.
Portland’s noise control officer Paul Van Orden says he’s received complaints from people just walking by loud stores, but he can’t regulate the noise level inside.
OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, requires hearing protection for noise levels that average over 85 decibels over an eight-hour period.
OSHA investigates only when an employee complains and that doesn’t happen very often. Employers who violate the noise standard rules can be penalized.
Audiologist Cindy Behrand has a warning for those employees and for shoppers who can’t resist going into the loud stores.
“If you leave feeling like your hearing is a little muffled or you have ringing in your ears, that can be a sign of some damage and long-term effects would be noise-induced hearing loss," she said.