How to Cope with Noisy Neighbours
Having a Quiet Word? Earplugs? Sound Machines?
Ever moved into a new house and the neighbors were just so loud you lost sleep and never got any peace and quiet when you got home?
Are your walls so thin that you can hear every single conversation your neighbors have?
Ever had to sleep with ear plugs in or fall asleep listening to your headphones?
You can get irrational pretty quickly when you're exhausted and feel like you're paying to share a house with other people and their lives.
I used to rely on earplugs but some neighbors are so noisy and some walls are so thin ear plugs don't do anything to help you sleep.
In this lens I'm going to explore ideas for coping with noisy neighbours.
Picture Above: I never actually needed a glass - I could hear every word without even trying!
My Noisy Neighbour Story
Why I'm a Cowardly Coward when it comes to Neighbour Noise
When I first wrote this page I lived in a small terraced house with paper thin walls. This tiny house was in a small village where by rights everyone should have known everyone else and have been on polite speaking terms.
On one side our neighbours spoke to us, although not often, on the left side (the problem side) the man of the house would occasionally say hello or give us a small smile but the woman wouldn't even look in our direction.
You could hear conversations really easily through the walls, and well... other noises too. Not great when you're trying to get to sleep and your neighbours have just come back from the pub or decided to have a few rowdy friends round.
The woman next door starting working as a police officer about a year after we moved in next door. This made everything worse as she would often work odd shifts and come home noisily in the early hours of the morning.
I remember one night when she came home at 2am and spent the rest of the night talking very loudly to her partner in bed. This was when we first learnt about using a fan to drown out the noise. We also spent the next day turning our bedroom around so that the head of our bed wasn't right against the head of their bed.
I think our neighbours on the left were resentful about new neighbours moving in because of the lack of soundproofing in the walls. They didn't want to have to deal with more noise after a few months' break. They also had a lady with a small dog on the other side of them. This little dog would bark at them whenever they moved. We made friends with the lady with the dog - that was strike 2 against us, I think.
We would sometimes hear the woman on the left shouting and swearing at the dog in the middle of the night when it barked.
Looking back, now that I'm out of that situation, I feel sorry for that couple on the left because they had to deal with noisy neighbours too - a little yappy dog!
We didn't have to deal with constant loud music - that was one good thing I suppose. Although there was that time on Christmas Eve that we had to listen to Christmas Hits all day at top volume!
I got so wound up about the situation at one point that I used to find it hard to go out of the house if I knew she was going to be out there.
I'm sure we made our fair share of noise - after all I do own a sewing machine but I would try to keep the noise down when we first moved in. When we were first there I thought perhaps the neighbours were just letting us know that our noise could be heard but it became pretty obvious that our needs weren't even considered.
It's hard to have a civil conversation with someone about keeping the noise down when they won't even look at you, so I started to look around for other solutions - things that I could do to make the situation liveable.
Basically, this is a page for all you introverts out there or people living in dangerous neighbourhoods - those of you who don't feel strong enough to tackle the problem head on.
So what's the big deal? Why don't you just go round there and tell them to keep it down?
Are You Kidding Me?
Talking to my neighbours was not an option I ever considered back when I lived next to them. I think if I had tried to talk to them they would have just ignored me and carried on as they were. I know some people would think I was crazy for not even trying but I'm not a social butterfly anyway. I find it hard to talk to people I don't know well even when they're nice!
I'm pretty sure that the kind of people who make unreasonable amounts of noise either know they're doing it and upsetting people and they're doing it on purpose or they couldn't care less about how you feel about it. I think my neighbours were the types who had bought a house and thought that because they owned their place they were entitled to do whatever they wanted whether it was bothering someone else or not.
My view on life is that if you have a problem then you have to fix it yourself, you have to rely on yourself. Yeah, you shouldn't have to but life isn't fair. So I started brainstorming the things I could do to make living in that house more bearable.
Oh, and by the way, in the UK the procedure for dealing with noisy neighbours when I had this problem was to contact the council and involve a "mediator" who would get you all together and talk - something that I felt, rightly or wrongly, would be excruciating and pointless.
The "solutions" I came up with fell into the categories Silence and Sound. Either I could block out my noisy neighbours or I could mask their noise with more noise.
Blocking out the Noise
One of the first answers I came up with was trying to block out the noise.
I went straight for my ear plugs.
There are cons to the blocking out noise:
Your ears can hurt after a while when they're got ear plus squished inside them or they're covered over with headphones.
You can miss important phone calls and the doorbell ringing.
You don't get to enjoy the radio or TV.
The Pros of creating your own silence include:
Not passing more noise on further down the terrace!
This is what we started using- good old fashioned earplugs but some sound still gets through them.
They're good for blocking out noise from the street but not so good at blocking out conversations through the walls or the sound of neighbours playing darts against your wall!
I'm a bit paranoid that using these is going to give me some kind of ear infection as well.
These might work but you'll only be able to lie on your back at night and your ears might get all crushed!
Creating a Noise "Cover"
I soon discovered in my situation that ear plugs weren't enough, I needed some sort of noise "disruption" - a steady constant sound that I could fall asleep to.
I present the humble desk fan.
The cons of making your own noise:
I've heard that having fans on constantly can affect your hearing but I don't know if this is true. My hearing is not great but I did listen to a lot of Nu-Metal at high volume on my personal CD player when I was in my 20s.
In Winter it's not pleasant to have cold air blowing at you all night.
Your electric bill is not going to be pretty.
The Pros of a steady droning sound:
You can finally fall asleep.
In Summer a fan keeps you cool.
We never really considered using our fan to block out sound from next door but it really helped having something in the room that was making a constant sound. During the day we have our computers on and the fans in those realy help mask noise. The only problem is that our house gets so cold in winter that we have to find a solution for the winter months.
White Noise Machine
This white noise sound machine just makes the noise of rushing air (the same effect as our fan).
What Do You Think?
Silence vs Sound: Which is better for drowning out Noisy Neighbours?