How to express a noise/subwoofer concern?
April 9, 2020 10:07 AM   Subscribe

Ever since about a week ago, for most of the day, the floor shakes... really close to imperceptibly, but enough that I notice it and feel it in my entire body. I thought at first it was psychological or a low-level heart condition, but I have good reason to believe the floor is actually shaking and it's my downstairs neighbor's soundsystem. In particular, I only feel the floor shaking in my office/bedroom area, which is above my neighbor's living room where their TV is. Who do I talk to and what do I say?

Hi, I post a lot about noise issues, and at this point I'm almost convinced I've been cursed to have people cause me to sleep badly for the rest of my life.

My assumption is how that my neighbor doesn't leave the house for work and doesn't keep a worktime sleep schedule, they've got the TV on in the background and they have a subwoofer that is close to the wall causing the floor to shake.

Needless to say, it's irritating - especially since my neighbor now goes to sleep much later than I do and I still need to maintain a reasonable sleep schedule. But also my heart is racing a lot now and I'm a bit worried I'm going to have a heart attack!

So my dilemma is this: I can communicate this through my landlord (who is a kindly older Jewish woman) or I can knock on my neighbor's door. My first instinct is to go through the landlord, because the landlord has discussed potential noise issues with me in the past and has resolved situations amicably. In addition, I'm scared to do in-person interactions right now and I don't have my neighbor's contact information. (The last time we handled a noise complaint, it was through notes left on each others' doors, and if they aren't leaving the apartment they won't see the note.)

What has me actually concerned is that I can't be 100% on the source of the noise and I don't want to hassle anyone with a complaint that's not substantiated because that would feel awful. I also just don't know how to articulate it though. What I actually want is for my downstairs neighbor to unplug the subwoofer, and I don't want to get in the way of any music/TV listening.
posted by LSK to Human Relations (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Wow, I am having the same issue and thought I was going insane yesterday. Does it happen all the time? I noticed my floor started vibrating all over as of a few days ago and I think it's the building AC. I would just have a conversation through their door about what they're doing and how to mitigate it. If it is a subwoofer, there are actually designed pads that will muffle it.

I can feel my floor shaking right now and yet the apartment below me is vacation, I'm almost positive. So in my case, I can't stop the floor shaking feeling. I've lived here for 2 years and I do think I noticed it sometimes last season but I was not in the house ALL FREAKING DAY. It has coincided with high spring temps for us.

Also, distracting myself from the fixation has helped. So weird that I'm experiencing exactly what you are. I kind of doubt it's a subwoofer unless you physically hear it though I do know they vibrate... it's just that from their floor to your floor is … not how it works? Because they're below you. It would be so rocking to be vibrating their walls then ceiling.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 10:13 AM on April 9, 2020

Hi, I post a lot about noise issues, and at this point I'm almost convinced I've been cursed to have people cause me to sleep badly for the rest of my life.

Not a direct solution, but some people are more sensitive to noises/disturbances than others, and you may fall in that sensitivity category as a family member of mine does. So if you do not wish to be cursed for the rest of your life, perhaps single-family dwellings should be in your future as any cohabitation will most likely be bothersome.

As far as neighborly discussions, as it seems the disturbances are mostly in the regular daytime hour range, there's not much you can do outside of a friendly conversation where the topic is brought up organically, and you mention the vibrations. Subwoofers can easily be switched on and off at certain times and don't take away from normal tv viewing.
posted by wile e at 10:16 AM on April 9, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: My assumption is how that my neighbor doesn't leave the house for work and doesn't keep a worktime sleep schedule, they've got the TV on in the background and they have a subwoofer that is close to the wall causing the floor to shake.

That's a huge assumption to make, frankly. A subwoofer typically sits on the floor with the driver pointed downward. Seeing that the neighbor in question is downstairs from you, it's seems a bit iffy that you're feeling the subwoofer. Most certainly, given the arrangement, if the sub was turned-up enough to feel upstairs, you'd almost certainly hear it (and the entire sound system) was well.

Vibrating floors can have so many causes. Candidates include any sort of machinery that might be operating on your floor, such as HVAC equipment, laundry machines, passing traffic, or even your own refrigerator.

I would investigate any other possible sources before escalating things toward your neighbor.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:36 AM on April 9, 2020 [4 favorites]

When I lived in apartments and thought I was hearing noise from a neighbor's TV or stereo, it often helped a lot to go to the area where I hear the sound, and put my ear up to the walls (and I guess in this case the floor). Often that would allow me to much more clearly hear and identify the source of the sound. That might help narrow it down, at least.
posted by primethyme at 10:45 AM on April 9, 2020 [1 favorite]

I listened to the most recent Savage Love podcast today. It opened with the story of a woman who contacted her landlord increasingly concerned over the course of 3 hours because of a weird vibration/noise in her bedroom. Eventually she figured out it was only noticeable on her side of the bed/floor. Then she realized that she had somehow left her vibrator on in the drawer of her night table, a table that was right up against the wall. I know this is not your problem (I also suffer from being sensitive to noise). I am saying that yes, it is a challenge to correctly identify the source of annoying sounds so Thorzdad's advice seems sound.
posted by Bella Donna at 12:36 PM on April 9, 2020

Best answer: Hi,

I think approaching the neighbor is the best course of action. I would do this - leave a note saying you are feeling a strange vibration through the floor (their ceiling) in X room of the layout. Ask if you can get in touch when you feel it to see if you can determine the cause.

Socially I think this is the best time to do this as people are spending more time in their houses and there is a sense of newness about staying home. It would be easy for your neighbor to assume you are stuck at home against your choice.

Vibration can be tricky. Here's an example. I have two bedrooms upstairs with almost identical inexpensive humidifiers - boxes with small motors and fans and a tank of water. They are the same make and model but built a year apart. In the bedrooms they make a whooshing noise, with a quiet high-pitched hum of the fan motor.

In the living room one floor below, when both humidifiers are on, there is a steady low-frequency hum. Much lower than the fan pitch, caused by the slightly-out-of-tune fan motors combining by vibrating the structure of the house, and the combined beats are a low frequency sound.

It may also be a pump or utility device further down in the basement.

If it is the subwoofer or speakers from the TV - then it may be possible to make small changes that do not affect the sound but drastically reduce the vibration. If the speakers or subwoofer are placed on scraps of carpet, rubber feet, even tennis balls cut in half, the vibration transmission will be reduced, but the sound your neighbor hears will be unchanged.

Isolation will not work as well on your end. As the floor vibrates it creates audible sound waves in your space. so putting your bed on tennis balls might reduce the vibration you feel, but you probably will still experience it as audible sound.

A final solution might be to find out the layout differences and try to line up the bedrooms - so your bedroom is not over neighbor's late-night entertainment room.
posted by sol at 12:42 PM on April 9, 2020

It's worth noting that low frequencies can and often do travel in ways that are very counter intuitive. Bass can sometimes skip apartments, so your subwoofer won't bother your neighbour, but the person living on the far side of them will have their dishes rattling. Or a new water main getting installed can mean that the rumble of trucks idling on the corner gets piped (literally) into your bedroom.

All of that to say, bass can often be coming from somewhere very very different than where you think it is, even if it really really really sounds like it's coming from one place in particular. Keep this in mind as you try to solve the problem.
posted by Jairus at 5:18 PM on April 9, 2020 [1 favorite]

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