Here are 10 steps that can help you minimise the risks of noise related health issues.
1. Know your noise. Download a noise measurement app on your phone and get an understanding of how loud your home and workplace are. This will help you decide if you need to take further actions.
2. Ensure that noise is in your selection criteria for anything you buy. There is a HUGE difference between the quietest and the loudest. This can apply to almost any appliance, tool, vehicle etc. Quiet Mark in the UK is pioneering an approach to this, ensuring you get quiet and quality in a purchase.
3. Talk to your neighbours (send them this article) and talk about creating an ‘urban quiet space’. Work together to reduce noise in your environment and everyone will benefit.
Schedule gardeners to come in on a common day or if doing it yourself at a regular time during the weekend. This leaves the rest of the week as peaceful.
Agree to manage dog noise: sleeping arrangements, regular walking (maybe even share the dogwalking), citronella collars and some discipline
Similar with other noisy hobbies or activities – agree the curfews
Agree to apply rule 2 together.
Let others know about noisy events (parties, construction), it may not reduce the noise but it is polite and lets others plan around your activities
4. Look at your spaces: Do you have hard surfaces everywhere? Noise levels can be reduced by the use of absorbing materials. Examples include sound absorbing artwork, covering sound absorbing foam and/or put in some carpet (with underlay).
5. Seal the entrances: Windows, doors, blinds, ventilators etc all have the ability to insulate (or transmit noise). If you are building or renovating, look at the options. While some of these products can be expensive, the impact they have can be dramatic, and will add value to your home, so may be an investment rather than a cost.
6. Create a sanctuary: In many houses, there are noisy and quiet parts. Maybe take a quiet room, and turn it into a sanctuary (look at ideas 2, 4 & 5).
7. Tackle the noises one at a time:
Squeaky hinges. Oil them
Barking dog. Walk them more, remove sources of irritation, buy a citronella bark collar
Banging blinds. Replace them or wrap rubber around the hard ends of the blinds
Noisy neighbours. Ask NoiseNet to help.
8. Fight Intrusive Noise: This is a tough one, airports, roads, rail lines are not going to go away. But taking the time to register your complaints will make a difference. Planning rules, operational plans for airports, specifications for rail system upgrades are all driven by public input. “If you are silent – they will be loud” so speak up.
9. Live in a quiet place: Increasingly there are fewer quiet places in our urban areas, but there is also a huge range of different noise levels. If you are buying or renting a property, make the investment to find out the real noise levels – don’t rely on just a couple of hours at the property – noise issues can be 24/7. Companies like NoiseNet offer highly reliable reports on noise risk and noise levels at individual properties.
10. Don’t amplify: Resist the temptation to turn up the volume, think about why you want to amplify and see if there is a noise you can remove/reduce instead.
11. And yes, you do get a bonus idea #11: Don’t Over-Stress. Definitely do everything you can to control noise. And when you get opportunities (moving to a new house, buying new stuff, or money to renovate) then seize those opportunities. If there is a noise in your life and there is no easy way to resolve it, then do your best to ignore it, and definitely don’t let it eat into you with stress. This is only going to worsen the impact.
To conclude, noise is an under-appreciated risk in the modern world. It is affecting increasing numbers of people and has a real impact not only on your short-term well-being, happiness and stress levels, but also drives significant long-term health effects.
But noise is also something that can be controlled and managed. It isn’t always easy to do so, but taking some concrete steps to do so will pay you immediate dividends through better sleep, lower stress levels, and probably also a longer and healthier life.