March 3, 2011 10:08 PM   Subscribe

I have moved to the loudest place on earth. Help me not lose my mind.

We have double-paned windows, white noise machines and no problem asking politely for people to take it down a notch during quiet hours. But in the three weeks since moving here, we've also had -

- Loud conversations outside our bedroom windows at 2:30 am
- Phone calls with both parties audible from inside an adjacent apartment... with all the doors shut
- Neighbors using their cell on speakerphone in the courtyard
- Other neighbors constantly yelling at each other/their kids

We've signed a year lease, and the only thing I hate more than the noise is the thought of moving again. Since I think it's more realistic for me to adjust my attitude than to try change other people's behavior, what are your best suggestions for coping? What noise reduction techniques have worked for you?

I've tried telling myself if everyone else is being noisy, then I can too - but cranking Pandora to 11 has been surprisingly unsatisfying.


posted by Space Kitty to Home & Garden (19 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
You have every, every ounce of my sympathy!

Mr. scody made sound plugs for our bedroom window to drown out traffic (and some neighbor) sounds -- basically, very dense sound-absorbing foam attached to plywood cut to fit in the windows and seal out as much sound as possible. Let me know when you're going to be back in town (I think I owe you an email? sorry! Just call when you're here!) and you can come over and I'll show you. That might help at least with the courtyard sounds.
posted by scody at 10:22 PM on March 3, 2011 [3 favorites]

You said you have double paned windows, and that's definitely a good thing, but what about curtains? Some good, old-fashioned heavy curtains might do some the trick!
posted by Krazor at 10:26 PM on March 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Delete that some, and you might just have a sentence!
posted by Krazor at 10:28 PM on March 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

I moved in October, and signed a year lease. And for a while, I was depressed about the noise - for me it is mostly traffic/tram noise (and I live near the tram depot so there is only about two hours a night where they are not trundling past), but a bit of noise from my neighbours as well (e.g. neighbour downstairs having loud phone call at 7.30am on a Sunday - seems to be a weekly call to someone deaf).

I don't think much has changed in terms of the noise, but it doesn't bother me so much now, I have just got used to it. This might not be helpful at all. But just to say that I initially felt unhappy about the noise levels in my apartment, and a few months later, didn't feel as bothered by it as I did at the start. I hope the same happens for you!
posted by AnnaRat at 10:35 PM on March 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Oh, also, for interior walls -- maybe make sure that your bookcases are on the walls that adjoin noisy neighbors... that should help absorb some of the interior noises. (If you want to get fancy, perhaps you could even line those walls with sound-absorbing foam as well, then put the bookcases in front of that?)
posted by scody at 10:44 PM on March 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

My wife is a light sleeper, and gradually eliminating various amounts of noise has been very helpful in getting her to sleep better. The biggest improvement came from custom earplugs, which cost about $120. They fit perfectly, of course, and eliminate or reduce a ton of ambient noise. She said they haven't been difficult to get used to, and for the obvious benefit she's totally happy with the tradeoff of learning to sleep with them.

They allow high pitched noise, so they don't affect her waking to her quite gentle alarm clock.
posted by fatbird at 11:06 PM on March 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Do you have a noisy bathroom fan? That's my nuclear option for drowning out noise in our apartment. That and ear buds that shut out ambient noise. In fact I am sitting at my laptop with the ear buds in but no sound on just for the sake of blocking out the rumble of our elderly neighbor's loud tv. Foam ear plugs for sleeping--if I get them seated just right in my ears they pretty much block out anything. Super nuclear option in warm weather is turning on our ac window unit.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 1:39 AM on March 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Try some white (or pink) noise. It'll take a few nights to get used to. Free files: or google "white noise machine".
posted by devnull at 2:19 AM on March 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Sounds like my flat. Blue wax earplugs ( allow me to get some sleep. They work well, get a loud alarm clock.
posted by gallagho at 2:57 AM on March 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yes, definitely white noise. You can use a fan, if you have one. Last summer I started sleeping with a fan on, and I find I sleep really soundly now, rarely waking up in the night, even when my upstairs neighbour would come home from work at 4.30 or 5am, which always used to wake me.

You don't need to have the fan directed on you - in these colder months I've had it pointing away from the bed. The cost is minimal - my fan has a 45W motor, so used for 7 hours a night this would cost about $10-$12 a year to run.
posted by essexjan at 3:02 AM on March 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

I thought I couldn't sleep with earplugs until I worked night shift. Necessity has a way of teaching us new things about ourselves. These days I like the orange flanged foam earplugs, but everyone has different ear canals and different tolerances on the fuzzy-sticky continuum.

I don't know where you stand on the earplugs issue but I think you should shop around and try a bunch of different kinds for both waking and sleeping time.

Nthing the white noise thing, too - if you can amp up the white noise and then plug your ears, intermittent disruptive noise will be drowned out. As everyone's noted, set your alarm loud.
posted by gingerest at 4:24 AM on March 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Seconding a box fan. I've had to stay in motels and other noisy places and this was a cheap and easy lifesaver. I automatically bring my fan now, never mind the weird looks. I'm looking into some of the expensive noise canceling headphones for day use. They seem really effective.
posted by Prairie at 4:34 AM on March 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

There's a point when it is necessary to be confrontational. 2:30AM and full voice conversations generally warrant me getting out of bed, politely going outside and asking the neighbors to quiet down. Continued behavior has resulted in me calling the cops in the past.

With that said, it is a good idea generally to get to know your loud neighbors, so that you can passively aggressively let them know that you'll complain about their behavior if they continue to make that much noise. The better terms you get to with them, the less likely they'll resent you for it.

Saying nothing, masking it, and otherwise trying to ignore it and suffer through it won't solve the problem.

As far as the smoking? Bummer, unfortunately you can't force people to quit. Next year, when you move, count butts on the lawn, distance to smoking stands, and the number of butts in the trash if you can't tell because people aren't home.
posted by Nanukthedog at 5:48 AM on March 4, 2011

You have my sympathy!

I live in an old house very close to the street. Our street is close to bars and a lot of student housing so there's a constant ebb and flow of late night people making noise. Unfortunately it's always someone different.

We've taken to playing white noise MP3s all night on auto-repeat, which helps. We are renting so we can't make the house itself more soundproof, but I've been thinking of getting something like this:

posted by DrumsIntheDeep at 8:13 AM on March 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

posted by The Toad at 8:35 AM on March 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Have you spoken with your Rental Management Company/landlord/persons in charge? You have a legitimate issue and while this might not be an issue with your noisy neighbors, I don't see why this can't become the management's problem. Continue to notify them of noise issues. They have an obligation to respond. If not, I believe you have a real cause for breaking the lease. If management is not responsive to initial complaints, send letters, document all issues, go above people's heads and at the last measure, threaten legal action.

Good luck!
posted by loquat at 11:44 AM on March 4, 2011

Prairie and Essexjan are right smart -- get a good but relatively loud box fan. Years ago when I worked the night shift (got home at 2:30 a.m., went to bed at 6, listened to trash truck and neighbors leaving for work from 7-9) my darling spouse bought me a big box fan. In hot weather, it's better than the AC, in cold weather, do as Essexjan recommended. And, like Prairie, we take a small fan when we go visit relatives or stay in a motel. We can't sleep without it!
posted by Smalltown Girl at 2:30 PM on March 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Last night was quieter, so after getting enough sleep I'm much less stabby at the neighbors. Bunch of great answers though, and some things I hadn't thought of. Fortunately anyone we've asked to quiet down has been super polite about it, so I'm not really ready to involve the rental agency or the cops & I'm crossing my fingers it doesn't come to that.

We don't have curtains in yet and hopefully just getting used to the different sounds will make a difference. I did try earplugs and it turns out I really can't stand having stuff in my ears. So far the thing that works the best (even better than the white/pink noise) is turning the AC on fan and letting it run. I really love keeping the windows open though, so I may end up switching to a box fan at least for spring.

posted by Space Kitty at 7:15 PM on March 5, 2011

I suffered the same problem you did not long ago. If you can invest the money, an interior soundproof window from CitiQuiet (assuming you're in the New York area) would be a fantastic solution. They say the window is rated to 90% sound elimination but frankly I can barely hear the garbage trucks outside my window at 4am. Check them out at if you're interested.
posted by inTikiwetrust at 8:44 AM on July 15, 2011

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