Getting An Earful

WSVN — From top 40 favorites to the latest techno tunes, stores are making their shoppers keep the beat while they browse.

Shopper: "I like to shop and listen to music, it's pretty good to me. I like shopping and, like, dances, you know."

But not everyone loves the loud music.

Shopper: "I don't care what the music is, it just doesn't have to be blaring."

And Seven News found those blaring tunes could hurt your hearing. We took our hidden camera in to see and hear for ourselves and used a digital, handheld sound meter. The sound levels we found were alarming.

At the Armani Exchange store in Boston, where the dance beats were bumping, the music registered in the mid 80s on our meter.

Dr. Clarke Cox: "85 decibels, that's the cut off point for the hazardous level, so federal guidelines say that if you're exposed to noise above 85 decibels, that in fact you can have hearing damage occur."

At our next stop, the tunes were taken up a notch. Abercrombie and Fitch in Cambridge rang in levels up to 90 decibels, and the closer we got to the speaker, the more piercing, hitting an astounding 95 decibels.

Dr. Clarke Cox: "Someone in there for 30 minutes could experience a hearing loss and those employees that work there could definitely be experiencing hearing loss. That's a very hazardous level, 95."

A former A & F employee knows all too well the tolls these tunes can take.

Worker: "On a scale of one to 10, it was definitely an eight or a nine, I would say. It was really ridiculously loud, and you really didn't want to stay there for longer than your shifts."

Next, we headed to Hollister, also in Cambridge, where our producer heard the music even before entering the store. Inside, the levels topped the charts averaging in the high 90 and hitting 100 decibels. That's equal to the sound of a chainsaw.

Dr. Clarke Cox: "Someone is shopping there for more than 15 to 20 minutes, they might in fact experience some hearing loss."

Seven News contacted the stores, the Armani Exchange did not return our repeated calls. Abercrombie and Fitch, which is also the parent company for Hollister, responded saying, "Our stores have standards in place to ensure the volume levels are within OSHA requirements."

Lynn Martinez: "The Government requires employees working around noise of 85 decibels or higher to protect their hearing."

To protect yourself, you can carry soft foam ear plugs to use if necessary. Move away from the sound source if you can't hear people right next to you speaking in moderately loud voices and limit your time in extremely loud places.

Also, be on the lookout for warning signs of hearing damage, which include ringing in your ears or cloudy, muffled hearing. Good advice to make sure you don't end up Getting an Earful.