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How noise affects your shopping experience

How noise affects your shopping experience

Have you ever been to a store and found the music or announcements too loud? 

This can be an annoyance not only for normal hearing people, but especially those with hearing loss or sensory issues, such as those with autism.

“Bright fluorescent lighting and lots of unnecessary noise is extremely overwhelming causing sensory overload to my children to the point of meltdown; which can be dangerous,” says UK mom Melody Anderson, who has launched an online petition asking CEO’s to make their supermarkets accessible to people with autism and sensory issues. 


More than an annoyance 

I’ve previously blogged on the topic of hearing loss friendly shopping and my support for one major UK store’s decision to cease playing piped music in all their stores. This petition calls for large grocery stores in the UK could do the same.

For anyone who has been shopping, you may know there’s a lot going in on a large grocery store – other shoppers wheeling their shopping carts, shelf-stackers, children, mid-aisle bargain baskets – it can sometimes feel like an obstacle course. When you add unnecessary noise to the mix, it can make it harder for people with hearing loss to hear others approaching, and you can start to find the whole experience unnecessarily stressful.

Anderson’s #Calmitdown petition specifically calls on Asda (Walmart), Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, and Tesco in the UK to make reasonable noise adjustments including:

  • Removing all unnecessary noise (such as piped-in music)
  • Removing/minimizing announcements 
  • Filtering or changing fluorescent lighting

“Two of my children are diagnosed with autism,” Anderson says. “My daughter who is 7 is also visually impaired and a wheelchair user. Everyday life can be tough for our family. A simple trip to the shops, especially the supermarket, can be an extremely difficult experience. That is why, I’m calling on shops to be accessible.

“Supermarkets are beginning to implement disability awareness training to their staff and some individual stores also recognize the needs of their customers trialing occasional ‘quiet hours’ focusing on autism, dementia and hearing loss needs. This shows that they accept the needs of their customers and that they are capable of making adjustments – but they are not doing it all the time.” 

Why do stores play music?

Different types of background music has been shown to influence shopping behavior. The type of music (e.g. classical, pop, etc.), volume, and tempo have all be shown to have an effect on how consumers behave, and spend money, in shops.

“People perceive shorter shopping time duration (compared to actual time spent in-store) when they hear music that they like, so long queuing times can feel shorter if you are playing agreeable music,” according to Soundjack. “Customers may not realize why they are enjoying a pleasant shopping experience, or even acknowledge any feeling other than indifference toward it at all, but subconsciously they will be correlating your shop with a positive shopping experience and will be more likely to shop there again.”

Effectively, slow music can often cause shoppers to show more slowly, encouraging them to take their time shopping and buy more, according to the report. 

One “sound” does not fit all

For people with hidden disabilities such as autism, visual impairment, hearing loss and dementia, loud noises and bright lights make some stores inaccessible. Still, others are not as bothered by noise. 

Do you have experiences on shopping and noise pollution? We’d love to read your thoughts in the comments or social media!

Author Details
Phonak hEARo, Angie is a freelance journalist and content writer. Angie was diagnosed with Otosclerosis in her right ear at the age of 30. In 2011, she suffered sudden profound hearing loss in her left ear. She uses a Phonak CROS II with a Phonak Audéo V hearing aid. You can follow Angie on Twitter @hearinglosshour and join in #HearingLossHour on the first Tuesday of the month.