For the average person, it might be practically impossible to shut out sound completely. In fact, of itself, sound is hardly problematic. It is when it transforms into noise, acquiring certain properties that are harmful to your body, that it becomes a huge challenge. In some locations, noise can build up to a certain degree that it becomes an environmental hazard. This phenomenon is known as noise pollution.
The various health complications connected to noise pollution include cognitive impairment, fatigue, and even cardiovascular disease. In a study conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2011, it was discovered that the estimated life expectancy of most adults in Europe has been radically reduced owing to noise pollution. The threat posed by noise pollution was so great that the study ranked noise pollution as the second most critical environmental threat, just a little behind air pollution.
Even when we are at sleep, we are still not immune to the dangers of noise pollution, which goes to show that you are perhaps affected the most by the sounds you are not ‘aware’ of hearing. The ear is referred to as a perpetually open auditory channel because of its ability to keep receiving and transmitting sounds except when a conscious effort is made to shut it down. Thus, while you are asleep, your brain receives sounds from your ears and works to interpret them and provide reactions. The most visible impact of this is interrupted sleep. With this comes the different corollaries associated with interrupted sleep (and sleep deprivation) such as impaired memory, tiredness, and lowered immunity. Furthermore, there are certain subtle changes your body experiences due to noise pollution while you sleep. For instance, in this recent study carried out to determine the effects of sleep disruption due to hospital noise, it was found that the body’s blood pressure and heart rate could be increased due to noise pollution during sleep.
In tackling noise pollution, your best bet, in most instances, is to find a way to reduce its impact on you. This is because it is probably only the government that has the machinery and institutional power to initiate and implement policies to wipe out noise pollution in its entirety. Even at that, it might still be an impossible task for the government. This is because totally eradicating noise pollution could mean halting the very engines that modern lives run on. Thus, while you may not be able to tackle noise pollution on a large scale, you can make sure your home is insulated. Basically, you do not need grand gestures; you could just make simple adjustments that can make your home noise friendly and pollution-free.
How to Reduce Noise Pollution at Home
1. Sound-proof your home
Sound-proofing your home might be an effective means of dealing with noise pollution. The steps to take to achieve this are not difficult and include:
- Make use of rugs: This is especially important if you make use of hard flooring in your home. While hard flooring may look aesthetically appealing, they can also contribute to noise pollution. They give off a loud sound when struck, and something as simple as walking on them wearing spike-heeled shoes can cause sounds to reverberate around your home. Rugs absorb the sound, helping to muffle the noise that may be created by your flooring.
- Create a separate room for your laundry machine and make sure the door is always shut. The noise from washing machines, while they are being run, can be grating. Carving out a separate room, with a door, might be a great way to deal with its noise. When this is not feasible, you can find a corner that is far away from your living area and install the appliance there.
- Schedule your time so that you can do your laundry when you are not at home. The same goes for using the dishwasher. If you let the appliances run when you are not at home, you will not be affected by the noise.
- Bookcases are also excellent for keeping out unwanted sound, especially if you are sharing a wall with someone who makes a lot of noise. Just lean a filed bookshelf on the wall, that way you will be muffling the sound coming from the other side of the wall.
2. Mask the noise
Here, the trick is to reduce noise by producing more sound. At first glance, this may appear counterintuitive. However, it is actually possible (and surprisingly easy) to ‘drown out’ noise with pleasant sounds. Deliberately creating peaceful sounds can distract you from the noise around you and import a sense of peace and tranquility into your home. Options for masking noise include turning on a fan, hanging some wind chimes around your home, or installing a water feature.
If you have some cash to spare, you could also invest in a white noise machine. The white noise machine works much in the same way as a white light machine; it produces white sound of different frequencies. The white noise machine is so effective that people who make use of it hardly make complaints about outside noise.
3. Make use of earplugs
This may seem rather simplistic, but it does work. Earplugs can act as a filter to the sounds coming from outside of your home, making sure that you do not get uncomfortable on their account. They are also cheap and quite easy to come by. You can make use of earplugs to block out noise when you are about to sleep. However, if you make use of an alarm, that may be a little tricky. The alarm has to be set to a very high volume so it can break through the earplugs and startle you awake. Earplugs can also be used at typically rowdy places such as music concerts and on construction rigs. In these instances, the earplugs would reduce the sounds to a comfortable level so that your eardrums do not get damaged.
Apart from the generic earplugs, you may also want to consider sound-canceling versions. They are a little bit pricey but are excellent for managing noise. Noise-canceling earphones intercept noise and send out noise-canceling sounds in response. Apart from earplugs, you can also find apps that carry out the same functions. You can install them on your phone, and they’ll work just as fine as noise-canceling earplugs.
4. Seal Windows and hang paintings
If you are considering building your own home, installing double glazed glass windows can be an effective noise pollution management strategy. Furthermore, properly sealing the window frames can be an additional strategy too. Not only are these long-term solutions, they are cost-effective too because double glazed glass windows help you save on power. They insulate your home better, cutting down how much you get to spend on energy. The idea is to consider these options while at the construction stage of your home. Making such huge renovations after construction can be quite costly.
An option to consider if you are done with the construction of your home is roller shutters. They are external coverings and serve as a barrier between your windows and outside sounds. Roller shutters are great for maintaining ventilation, so they give you great value for your money by providing the benefit on both ends.
5. Take time away from the noise
Sometimes, it is possible that even with the strategies employed, you’ll still experience no respite. If you find that nothing seems to be working, and the noise keeps breaking through each barrier that you set up, taking a break from your home might just be what you need. Go to a place that is free from noise and is totally quiet. Immerse yourself in the experience and stay put for a while to regain your sense of emotional balance. You can choose to take a walk around a quiet block in your neighborhood, or visit the library and spend a few hours even if you eventually read nothing.
Meditation can also be quite helpful. It can help you manage the distress associated with living in a chaotic environment without having to up and leave. Meditation can be as simple as closing your eyes, shutting out whatever that is going on around you, and letting go. You can practice this wherever you are – at work, on a bus, walking home from the grocery store. If you happen to be at home, you can sit down, cross your legs at right angles, close your eyes and breathe slowly, counting to ten.
Finally, a drastic measure you can take is moving out of the location entirely. This might be the only way to make sure that you get away from the noise altogether. If you live in a city, you may want to consider moving to the suburbs. The absence of huge factories and highways and the relatively quiet experience there might be what you need. Of course, this option may not be available, nor appeal to everyone. It may happen that you cannot move because of financial constraints, or because of the nature of your work. However, you can decide not to relocate to the suburbs and just move to a quieter part of town. Be on the lookout for locations that are not in industrial districts or flight paths. When there is a drop in noise, your efforts at controlling noise pollution will then work better.
What can you do about noise pollution you cannot control?
The discussion has been about helping you discover ways of managing noise pollution within your immediate space. Your home is an area that you can control, so to a large extent, you can remove noise-generating features without a lot of hassle. However, the same cannot be said for your neighbors. You can only complain about the loud music for so long. What then, are the ways you can minimize the effects of noise pollution from your neighbors?
Firstly, as already discussed, you have to select the place where you want to live carefully. There are areas prone to noise pollution, such as those close to airports or huge factories. If avoiding noise pollution is high on your priorities list while looking for an apartment, then you will do well to avoid houses that are within flight paths or near a factory. Furthermore, get familiar with the noise pollution laws of the area you live. Every state, and even some districts, have noise pollution laws that govern them. These laws stipulate when heavy machinery is permitted to be used and when bands are not allowed to play. The aim of familiarizing with the laws is so that you can be aware when a violation has occurred, in the event of which you may need to institute an action or file a complaint. You can also take some immediate actions yourself. For instance, you could get involved in community projects such as working to get cars and motorcycles banned around your immediate environs, or planting trees. Generally, communities with large trees are less prone to noise pollution because the large trunks and leaves absorb most of the noise. Also, try not to be the cause of noise pollution yourself. Make sure that you only use your car horn when you absolutely must. There may be no need to tap your horn as a form of greeting to your neighbor. Have your car in good condition at all times. It is usually cars that are in bad shapes that make the most noise. In fact, if you are totally against noise pollution, you should consider not driving at all. You can walk or take a bike to wherever you are going to, especially if you live and work within the same locale.
Tackling noise pollution involves deliberate action. Sitting still and wishing the noise away will not work. In your home, you can create a sanctuary for yourself and your immediate family. The actions you take can insulate them from noise pollution and the harmful effects that come with it.
About the Author: Brenner Thomas is a blogger who enjoys writing articles about home decoration and house security. After working as a writer for various media publications, Brenner decided to start his own blog top10pack.com where he covers topics of lifestyle, house decoration and home security.