Noise is arguably the biggest daily irritant in the modern world. It’s caused by a combination of industrialization, overpopulation, mass media culture and selfish attitudes. The human nervous system never evolved to cope with amplified electronic and vehicular noises. Those who claim that noise is “just part of modern life” are ignoring where we came from. Noise pollution is the biggest outward manifestation of bad neighbors. The effects of noise usually get more irritating as you age, develop calmer tastes and realize humanity won’t change much. It’s become a life-altering nuisance for hundreds of millions of people.
Units with shared-walls have the most obvious noise problems but the ability of humans to be obnoxious under any circumstance is legendary. People often move to rural areas hoping for tranquil surroundings, only to realize some idiot 100 yards away thinks the relative isolation gives them a “right” to broadcast noise much further than urban zones allow. There are extremists like the Colorado thug who made news in 2011 for driving off prospective neighbors with a sign boasting of loud vehicles and parties. Others are more random with their disturbances but show similar lack of respect.
Disregard for neighbors can be outwardly belligerent or subtle and passive-aggressive. Chronic noise perpetrators tend to play the victim and re-frame complaints against them as harassment when the converse is true. By nature they are rude and impossible to reason with. Noise-makers fail to respect The Commons, the physical middle ground that unrelated people must share. Noise can invade that space just like bright lights or bad smells.
Common noise problems with potential solutions:
1) The irritant factor of loud music is a given, but even “low level” subwoofers are a nuisance since bass goes through walls when other frequencies may not. Many noise ordinances were written before discreetly amplified bass existed in consumer gear. Large older speakers certainly had bass, but subwoofers emphasize it without equalization and it carries further. (c)Rap and other modern forms of music also have more bass content. Solution: Use headphones if you play any sort of moderate to loud music in a shared-wall situation, or where it can escape your house. Turn off your boom car stereo when you pull into a neighborhood. No music should have to be heard through walls, period. It’s easy to lock on to subtle, unwanted patterns which make sleep or relaxation impossible. Wind Turbine Syndrome is a similar concept. Some sounds are much harder to ignore than others. Psychological torture can be inflicted at levels that don’t register on decibel meters. You have to live it to understand it.
2) People recklessly slam doors, not thinking about how the building reverberates each time. Solution: Doors can be closed with controlled force vs. mindless slamming. It just takes giving a damn about your neighbors.
3) People (especially on top floors) walk and stomp, not caring that vibrations transmit to lower floors. Kids often run around like it’s a playground. Solution: Just make some effort to not walk heavily on top floors, and calm your kids down. Because of floor construction, some disturbances are inevitable but intent matters a lot.
4) People lose their tempers and broadcast their domestic yelling and fighting noises to other units. Solution: Be aware that your social life is not the center of the universe. Save your brawls for inside a car, or anywhere away from home. Get your personality in order so you don’t spend half your life bickering.
5) Even normal voices seem louder at night as city traffic declines and ambient noise drops. Solution: Make an effort to talk quietly at night, just as if you had a baby sleeping in the other room. A simple matter of common courtesy.
6) Loud exhaust systems can wake an apartment complex or neighborhood as shift workers depart and arrive. Solution: Many aftermarket pipes are illegal but get installed anyway. Shallow, insecure people strive to be loud for some extra horsepower or to maintain a biker image (see Harley vs. Hoover joke). If you rigged your vehicle to be loud, just undo the modifications out of common decency.
7) Apartment managers often schedule leaf blowers and lawn mowers for morning hours like 7 or 8 a.m., disrespecting anyone who sleeps later than that. Solution: Landscaping companies need to deliberately work later shifts, or use quieter machines with sound insulation or 4-stroke engines (they exist but tend to cost more).
- Noise Pollution is the general term for disruptive sound in the environment.
- A general search shows how many people are affected by noisy neighbors.
- Science verifies the scope of noise problems. “Decibel Hell” is no exaggeraton.
- If you need a religious angle on common decency, read and heed this.
- Amsterdam has a good punishment for crummy, noisy people.
- Negativland’s “Escape From Noise” approaches the topic with dark humor.