Best Noise-Blocking Solution for Light Sleeper?
August 27, 2017 7:55 AM   Subscribe

I just moved across the country for grad school. Unfortunately, I have discovered that my apartment is smack-dab in the center of an undergrad party neighborhood, and the noise is keeping me up well past 4 AM. I have yet to find earplugs that don't make me crazy. HELP!

I just moved to Ann Arbor, and rented my apartment without knowing much about the layout of the city. My neighborhood is LOUD, and I'm told it's only going to get worse as football season kicks into gear. I've signed a year lease, and moving is really not an option until at least May. Are there specific white noise machines that will drown out the sound of 300 undergrads shouting at all hours? Do SleepPhones really work?

I'm reluctant on earplugs because I worry that I wouldn't hear my alarm go off, plus all the ones I've tried fall right out of my ears. But if there are solutions in the earplug-realm that would solve these problems, I'm all ears! (ha.)
posted by frizzle to Home & Garden (18 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I use SleepPhones to drown out the running, screaming, and crying of my upstairs neighbors' children. I usually play some sort of white noise thing from YouTube (rain or whatever) through my SleepPhones in the morning, on top of the Dohm white noise machine that we run all night. This combo works better than earplugs, IMO, though it's still not perfect, and it won't do much for thumping bass etc.
posted by goodbyewaffles at 8:06 AM on August 27, 2017

I use Mack's Silicone Earplugs.
posted by elmay at 8:20 AM on August 27, 2017 [2 favorites]

Do you have a window you can put a window unit AC in? You don't even have to run the cooling mode, the fan noise is room-filling, especially if your head is fairly close to it.

I am a terrible sleeper, and can't put things in my ears, and I've tried every white noise app on the sun and can create a pretty good three-dimensional noise using an app and a plastic storage tub, but there's nothing like a window unit or high-speed industrial fan (which, even pointed at the ceiling, may be too much wind) for making big noise.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:24 AM on August 27, 2017 [3 favorites]

Here is some information on blocking sound: basically put as much mass as possible between you and source.
posted by SyraCarol at 8:30 AM on August 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

I share a bed with a very loud snorer, and I've found this style of earplug works pretty well. I like that they're relatively cheap, so I can toss them when they're not as springy or get a bit gross.

I used to use my phone as an alarm and I almost always heard it immediately, though as backup I had a Wake-Up Light. Nowadays I wear a FitBit with a silent alarm (it vibrates), which works super well.
posted by neushoorn at 8:33 AM on August 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

Is the sound so loud it's coming through the walls or is it more the windows? Layering over the windows with heavy curtains might help if the latter. Or even foam insulation if you're desperate.
posted by Wretch729 at 8:36 AM on August 27, 2017

I like my SleepPhones but they don't cover a lot of sound. I'm quite sensitive but Hearos make an extra soft earplug I find tolerable, albeit not every night. On occasion I've used my noise canceling Bose QC 20 for sleeping. Very good noise protection, fairly comfortable for earbuds.
posted by bizarrenacle at 8:40 AM on August 27, 2017

Assuming you may not have spent a lot of time with earplugs in the past - most of the standard earplugs I've worn need to be sort of pinched down before they are inserted. Then they puff back up and fill the area more effectively. I'd experiment with that and then, once you find something that works, test your alarm clock to make sure you can hear it. You almost certainly will be able to, but if not, you can adjust the volume or use a louder or vibrating alarm on your phone.

In the past I've used a cheap box fan for white noise when running the A/C wasn't practical, and it helped a lot.

Alternatively: find a romantic partner in a quiet part of town and sublet your apartment to a noisy undergrad.

Good luck!
posted by bunderful at 8:51 AM on August 27, 2017 [2 favorites]

I use these HEAROS Xtreme earplugs. Because sleeping during the day, stopmpy-footed upstairs neighbors, apartment pool right outside my front door, neighbors outside bedroom window throw lots of parties...

You have to read the instructions and it takes a bit of finesse to pull up on your ear with one hand and roll them with the other and poke them in at just the right angle. But once you get the hang of it, they sit behind your tragus and won't fall out while you're sleeping.

A close-by alarm clock works just fine as long as you make sure the volume is up really loud.

I can only wear them two or three sleeps in a row before my ears get a bit scratchy-itchy, but often I wake up in the middle of the night and take them out if things have quieted down.

The trick is just getting them inserted correctly so they don't fall out and are comfortable when you turn your head (if you sleep on your side).
posted by zengargoyle at 9:25 AM on August 27, 2017

I've had good success blocking frustrating outside noise with this fan.
posted by swheatie at 10:12 AM on August 27, 2017

That fan swheatie linked to is, in fact, quite noisy and will block outside noise.

You need window plugs that easily pop in and out of your window frame and don't look a mess. Measuring and cutting soundproofing boards is a bit messy (home depot) but combined with foam Tyvek insulation sheets, wrapped in upholstery batting, then wrapping the whole thing in pretty or plain white contact paper will do the trick.

You'll need:

Tape measure
Straight edge of some sort
Large Utility Knife
Sound Proofing Board
Tyvek Insulation Sheet
Duct Tape
Roll of upholstery batting (cheapest type is fine)
Large Roll Contact Paper

1. Cut the boards to fit snug inside the window frame. Measure twice, cut once.

2. Duct tape the boards together. Contact cement would also work.

3. Wrap the board(s) in Upholstry Batting.

4. Wrap that neatly with Contact Paper.

5. Place in window. Enjoy the silence.

I have used old blankets to wrap the outward facing side of the boards, it's important something squishy be around all edges of the board so it can fit snuggly into the window frame. Make sure it is easy to remove in an emergency.
posted by jbenben at 10:27 AM on August 27, 2017 [4 favorites]

An alternative tactic may be to report noise violations to the University Police, Greek Life, and or the Center for Campus Involvement, especially if you can trace the worst of it to specific addresses (assuming this is a party house / frat house problem more than a bar/restaurant problem). My alma mater had a dedicated community liaison officer who spent a lot of time quieting things down, especially late at night. Michigan may or may not have a similar program.

Failing that, heavy curtains and a fan.
posted by charmcityblues at 12:16 PM on August 27, 2017

I rely on these Sperian Leit Sleepers foam earplugs. (32bB) No problem hearing my morning alarm.
posted by mcbeth at 4:35 PM on August 27, 2017

I've used Howard Leight Laser Lite earplus since living on a street near a fire station 20 years ago. Every few years I sample what's new but keep coming back to the Laser Lites for the combination of effectiveness, comfort and how many times they can be reused. Intended for single use, maximum protection starts to fall off after 3 nights. I routinely extend that to a week in less noisy situations.

Available at retail in packs of 6-10 pairs. They're an industrial safety product, so can be purchased in bulk. Vendors on Amazon and other places sell boxes of 200 individually wrapped pairs. It's easy to find bags of 50 pairs. Make sure you get the cordless ones. My preferred Amazon vendor is Safety4Home & Work. Why the florescent colors? Makes it easy to spot who isn't complying with on the job regulations.
posted by Homer42 at 9:42 PM on August 27, 2017

Assuming you may not have spent a lot of time with earplugs in the past - most of the standard earplugs I've worn need to be sort of pinched down before they are inserted. Then they puff back up and fill the area more effectively.

Yep, that; and also, as per zengargoyle, they work best if you reach over your head with the other hand to pull the ear open while you insert the earplug. Searching for "how to insert earplugs" will get you plenty of better descriptions, diagrams and so on.

Also, foam earplugs vary in size and shape; it's worth experimenting.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 3:20 AM on August 28, 2017

I like the silicone ear plugs. Mack's are good but expensive, and larger than I needed. The CVS store brand are cheaper, smaller, and work fine. You can extend their useful life by rinsing them off in the morning. I could usually get a pair to last for about a week before they'd begin to not stay in, due to wax secretions in the ear sticking to the plugs. Washing them off helps extend this a day or two.
posted by qurlyjoe at 7:23 AM on August 28, 2017

My ears don't seem compatible with earplugs. But I can say that upholstery does wonders.

An upholstered headboard, preferably one that has a little surround/cove shape will really block/absorb a lot of sound. Same with a folding screen that you can place in front of the window, something with a lot of soft surfaces. Curtains, hang a decorative rug or quilt on the wall, pillows ... fluffy things.

Also, making your sleep space as compatible as possible in all other ways can signal your brain that it's okay to tune out. Nice bedding, good blackout curtains, a good routine before bed to prep your body and mind. Consider sleep one of your classes in grad school and you must ace it consistently.
posted by typetive at 10:22 AM on August 28, 2017

may not work but i find comfortable: BioEars silicon earplugs, squishy. Don't get dust on them because they're sticky, stick them straight back in the box. You should be able to get vibrating alarms for your phone and put it under your pillow? Deaf people use vibrating alarms.
posted by maiamaia at 2:43 PM on August 28, 2017

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