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While some of us may live “off the grid” in remote areas surrounded by natural sounds like the babbling brook, the occasionally roaring river, birds, bugs and the ubiquitous dog bark, the vast majority of humanity find commune with each other in more densely populated areas. Whether we reside in a city, suburb or small town, as we live closer to each other and increasingly rely on the assistance of noisy machines, life has simply gotten louder.
Many people try to deal with the constant thrum of neighborhood activity by isolating themselves with earbuds in a sonic environment of their own choosing, which only contributes to the preponderance of sound that causes noise-induced hearing loss.
We all need a break from noise from time to time. In addition to causing hearing loss, noise pollution can also contribute to mental health issues. Here are some ideas for dealing with noise pollution in your neighborhood, so you can be sure to have the sonic sanctuary that each of us needs.
Typical Sources of Noise Pollution
Sources of unwanted noise differ depending where you live, but some of the most common causes include:
- Airplanes (especially near airports)
- Amplified music from storefronts, neighbors, music venues or bars
- Emergency vehicles
- Transportation (cars, motorcycles, trains)
- Construction & industry
- Lawn & garden and landscaping equipment
Chances are, if one of these is a bigger problem for you than the others, you already know it. Whatever your most problematic noise sources are will determine what action you take to reduce your exposure. For example, if airplanes fly over your home on a regular basis, planting a hedge won’t do much for you; but if nearby traffic is your main concern, you might not need to go through the trouble of soundproofing your roof. Always keep in mind the directionality of the noise problem when considering the best solution for your home.
Also remember that you can create noise pollution in your own house. Is the TV or radio always on, and is someone listening to it loudly? Is your furnace sufficiently acoustically isolated from the more lived-in space in your home?
Many people live with noisy washers and dryers when some rubber pads could significantly reduce the noise. Bare wood floors are acoustically reflective, which means that the sound that goes on in the room will bounce around more and, thus, assault your ears more. Getting a rug or two to soak up some interior reflections can make the environment more sonically pleasant while also protecting your hearing better in the long term.
Can You Remove the Noise Source?
If your noise pollution is coming from airplanes due to the nearby airport, it’s unlikely you’ll convince the airlines to stop flying in and out of your city! But if you’re having issues with construction, you may be able to approach your city council to restrict work to certain times of day. If a local business is piping music into the street, they may be willing to stop if you approach them. If they refuse, a city council determination might compel them to keep it down a bit.
Noisy neighbors can be infuriating. While you may not be eager to get into open conflict with your neighbors over the noise they’re making, there are things you can do to get them to keep it down. If you’re a renter, ask your landlord to intervene. You might slip a copy of your city’s noise ordinance under their door. Try to avoid getting law enforcement involved unless you’ve exhausted other possibilities, but also remember that people might be on edge, and you don’t want to draw any aggression toward yourself.
Plant a Hedge
If you have issues with nearby traffic, you might be surprised how much some plant life in your yard can do to reduce the noise. Planting some climbing vines on a fence or setting up a hedgerow can do wonders for reducing the noise reaching your home, as well as provide some attractive greenery in your yard.
Soundproofing Your Home
While achieving total soundproofing in your home is probably not practical (or desirable), there are solutions that range from construction to sound-reducing curtains (as well as the aforementioned rugs) that can help make your sonic environment more pleasant. Keep in mind that sound-reducing curtains will not block out all the sound, but they will block out all the light! Replacing old windows or adding a layer of drywall to your ceiling, while costly and potentially time-consuming, can go a long way if you plan to remain in your current home for a long time.
Get a Hearing Test
If you’re worried about the effect that noise pollution might be having on your hearing, it’s always a good idea to get a hearing test and start keeping track of your hearing health. It’s best to catch hearing loss early, so make an appointment today!