How to Reduce Noise in Your Home

The 2010 World Health Organisation study on noise found that noise pollution has been hailed as the second biggest environmental issue after air pollution. But for people with noise sensitivity as part of their chronic illness, even dropping a fork can cause intense discomfort or – in some cases – provoke the onset of a seizure.

In this blog post, we’ll delve into the topic of reducing sound in your home, with a specific focus on creating a quieter environment for those with sound sensitivity due to chronic illness.

We understand that excessive noise can be overwhelming, exacerbating symptoms and hindering overall well-being. We’ll provide practical strategies and small yet impactful changes that can make a meaningful difference in minimising day-to-day sound within the home environment.

First, I’ll post the actual list so you don’t have to scroll for three years to get to the info. Then below that, I’ll expand on relevant points for any folks who’d like to read more in-depth.

How to Minimise Noise for Sound-Sensitive Individuals

Here’s a list of ways to reduce household noise (caused from both inside and outside of the home). I’ll try to highlight which ones are more ‘renter friendly’, but do also keep an eye out for our upcoming article about how to discuss new home accessibility requirements with your landlord.

1. Seal Gaps to Outside

Use weatherstripping around windows and doors to seal gaps/cracks. This will reduce the noise coming in, and help to keep your home warm in the winter. (Renter Friendly)

2. Use Floor Coverings

If you have hard floors, use rugs/mats to muffle sound, especially in the room where the most time is spent or other high-traffic areas such as hallways. (Renter Friendly)

3. Hang Window Dressings

Buy some thick curtains. Even if you never use them to block out the light, the material will still help to muffle in-room noise. (Renter Friendly)

4. Fix Flooboards

Especially true for wooden floors, which expand and contract in the heat. Identify the areas with squeaks and apply lubricant, such as powdered graphite or silicone spray, to reduce friction between floorboards. Alternatively, secure loose floorboards with screws or nails to eliminate the noise.

5. Re-Lay Flooring

In extreme circumstances, redo your floors with a thin padded layer of acoustic foam or underlay felt so that even heavy-footed housemates can’t be heard!

6. Fix Squeaky Hinges

For doors and drawers (etc), keep a can of WD40 or similar. Don’t have any? You can use dish or hand soap in a pinch. (Renter Friendly)

7. Replace Squeaky Hinges

If it keeps squawking, you may decide to replace the hardware (handles & hinges) altogether with specialised items, such as pivot hinges or concealed hinges.

8. Replace Hollow Doors

Use solid doors instead of hollow ones in order to better muffle the sound between rooms.

9. Soft-Close Everything

Attach soft-closing dampers or bumpers to cabinet doors and drawers. And don’t forget to do the same for your toilet lids! You can even find various options available for retrofitting existing cabinets. (Partially Renter-Friendly)

10. Wall Insulation

Adding insulation material, such as fibreglass batts (filling), cellulose insulation, or another drywall layer to your walls will create a thicker barrier for sound to travel through from room to room.

11. Soundproof Wall Tiles

These can be added and removed to relevant spots, rather than redoing the whole wall (especially useful for renters). These can also be used on ceilings if you’re in an apartment with a noisy upstairs neighbour! (Renter Friendly)

12. Paint & Wallpaper

There are now noise-reducing paint and wallpaper options that aid with reducing mid-range noises (such as speech).

13. Window Replacement

Depending on how many may need replacing this could be very expensive, but there’s possibly a large positive difference to both sound and climate control.

14. Insulate Pipes

Insulating the pipes with foam insulation sleeves can help reduce the noise generated by water flow, as it helps to prevent banging or rattling sounds. (Partially Renter Friendly)

15. Tackle Plumbing Problems

Install water hammer arrestors or air chambers to address noisy pipes or plumbing fixtures that produce loud banging or rattling sounds when in use.

16. Seal Air Ducts

Air ducts can act as sound conduits throughout your home. Ensure that all air ducts are properly sealed and insulated to reduce noise transmission from heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems.

17. Rearrange Furniture

Good news readers, books make great sound barriers! Pop a bookshelf against an adjoining wall and rearrange furniture to muffle sounds from more echoey rooms. (Renter Friendly)

18. Pull Appliances Forward a Smidge

Place refrigerators, dryers and washing machines sliiiightly away from their back walls so the vibrations aren’t as amplified. (Renter Friendly)

19. Place Cork or Foam Under Appliances

Use rubber or cork pads under vibrating appliances such as washers and dryers (or smaller appliances such as blenders or kettles), and make sure they’re balanced/level. (Renter Friendly)

20. Invest in Drawer Liners

Especially for drawers used for hard items (cutlery, junk drawer etc), use a soft liner to muffle the rattling. Even old T-shirt material cut to size would work in a pinch. (Renter Friendly)

21. Replace Appliances

When it’s time to swap, consider something with ‘Quietmark’. Generally energy efficient appliances also run the quietest – win win! Additionally, opt for front-loading washing machines as they tend to be quieter than top-loading ones.

22. Talk to Neighbours

If you share a wall (or walls) with neighbours, consider gently talking to them about the situation. You can’t expect them to be silent in their own homes, but asking them to give you warning when they’re planning to do DIY or mow the lawn so you can take relevant steps will still help. (Renter Friendly)

23. Consult a Professional

For more extensive noise reduction needs or specific structural modifications, it may be beneficial to consult with a professional soundproofing expert. They can provide tailored solutions and recommendations based on your home’s unique characteristics and your specific needs.

Am I Missing Anything?

Is there anything not listed that should be? Have you tried any of the above and want to shout the praises of a particular item/brand we can suggest? Please get in touch!

Non-Permanent Changes to Reduce Noise in the Home

If you live with someone who has sound sensitivity, not every ‘fix’ is permanent. There are actions you can take day-to-day (where relevant/possible!) to reduce noise-stress for your loved one. (They’re also all renter-friendly, unlike some of the above fixes!)

  1. Regularly maintain your appliances. For example, clean and replace air filters in your HVAC/Air Con system, as clogged filters can make the system work harder and produce more noise.Fill the washing machine to 75% rather than 100%, making it less noisy as it spins due to the weight.
  2. Use your hairdryer in the farthest room.
  3. Close doors to other rooms when using appliances (especially in the kitchen).
  4. If you need to make a noise on purpose, let the other person know in advance and ensure they have their noise-cancellation accessories to hand (headphones, plugs, white noise machine etc).
  5. If you have an en-suite and a separate bathroom (e.g. downstairs), use the furthest one for the toilet, and teeth brushing/shaving if you use appliances instead of manual.
  6. Use headphones for WFH calls/meetings rather than open sound.
  7. Don’t have an obnoxious alarm-style ringtone.
  8. Try to keep loud DIY to a minimum, but discuss with the person with sound sensitivity what needs to happen, when, and how long the noise will last (and what type of noise!) so you can both plan accordingly.
  9. Gently remind visitors about noise levels.
  10. Answer the door in a soft voice – it’ll show the delivery driver that they shouldn’t shout!
  11. Close windows at strategic times of the day. If you live close to a school, close around lunchtime and hometime. If your neighbours love their lawnmowers a bit too much, get ready to close during the weekend.
  12. Go manual! Use a pestle and mortar instead of a blender for small sauces etc. Clip your hedge with manual clippers. Use a broom instead of a vacuum (where possible!)
  13. Communicate! There will be things that you do which you don’t even register the noise of (mine was listening to music in the kitchen while preparing food) that the person with the sound sensitivity might find uncomfortable. Figure out together how to minimise the noise/discomfort without resorting to the home becoming a silent retreat.

Type of Noise Cancellation

There are two types of noise cancellation activity.

Sound Absorbing

This type of noise cancellation essentially soaks up the sound so that it doesn’t continue to bounce from place to place.

Sound absorbing noise cancellation focuses on reducing the amount of sound reflections and reverberations in a given space by preventing it from bouncing off surfaces and creating echoes.

Materials commonly used for sound absorption are ‘soft’, and include foam panels, mineral wool, fibreglass insulation, and acoustic ceiling tiles. Even rugs work! These materials are designed to absorb sound waves by converting their energy into heat or by causing the sound waves to lose energy through internal friction. When sound waves interact with these materials, they are converted into tiny vibrations that dissipate within the material, reducing their intensity and preventing them from reflecting back into the room.

Sound Blocking

This reduces or completely stops the transfer of sound in the first place.

Sound blocking noise cancellation, also known as sound isolation or soundproofing, aims to prevent the transfer of sound from one space to another. The goal is to create a physical barrier that blocks the transmission of sound waves, minimising their impact on the receiving side. This type of noise cancellation is effective in situations where the focus is on preventing external noise from entering a specific area or containing sound within a particular space.

Sound blocking techniques involve constructing barriers or using materials that impede the transmission of sound waves. Common methods include adding mass to walls, floors, and ceilings, sealing gaps and cracks, and using soundproofing materials such as specialised drywall, acoustic sealants, mass-loaded vinyl, or resilient channels.

The key principle behind sound blocking is to create a solid, airtight ‘barrier’ that minimises the vibrations and air-borne sound waves from passing through – hence why double-glazing is so much better than single-glazing for this purpose!

Understanding the Impact of Sound Sensitivity

Living with chronic illness often involves coping with one or more forms of hypersensitivity, and sound sensitivity is a significant challenge for many people with ME. Whether it’s caused by ME or other conditions like fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, or sensory processing disorder, the impact of sound sensitivity can be far-reaching.

Exposure to loud, repetitive or irritating noises can lead to increased stress, anxiety, fatigue, and even physical discomfort and pain (including inducing seizures). It can make everyday activities, such as cooking, socialising, or even resting, incredibly challenging.

Individuals with chronic illness often experience heightened response intensity to stimuli due to their condition. Their nervous systems may be more reactive, making them more susceptible to sensory overload (which means that a noise someone without sound sensitivity may not even register becomes physically painful for them). This makes it crucial to create a home environment that supports their well-being and provides a sanctuary from excessive noise.

Identifying Sources of Noise in the Home

To effectively reduce sound in your home, it’s essential to identify the sources of noise that contribute to a less-than-ideal environment. Common areas in the home where noise can be problematic include the kitchen, bathroom, living room, and bedroom. Within these areas, specific sources of noise may include appliances, plumbing fixtures, doors, windows, and even the activities of other household members.

For instance, the clattering of dishes in the sink, the hum of a refrigerator, the rattling of windows, or the footsteps on creaky floors can all contribute to a noisy living space.

By pinpointing these sources and having honest discussions about their effects, you can then take targeted measures to minimise or eliminate them according to priority, cost and effectiveness, creating a quieter and more peaceful home environment for everyone.

What About Sound Masking?

While we’ve covered how to reduce or dampen sounds in this article, we haven’t talked about what to do when some potentially triggering sounds are unfortunately unavoidable. In a separate article (coming asap), we’ll discuss the pros and cons of different sound masking techniques and accessories.

Reducing Noise: Wrap Up

In a world where silence is often drowned out by the clamour of everyday life, it’s time to take charge and reclaim the power of sound reduction.

By implementing the practical strategies and techniques outlined in this article, individuals with chronic illness can create a home environment that truly understands and supports their needs.

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