Shhhhh: How to Block Out Noise
As I’m writing this, the apartment to my left is having its kitchen smashed out with a sledgehammer, the apartment across from me has power tools running with the door open, and in the hallway, a couple of chatty fellows are spraying the ceiling down with something — pssst, pssst, pssst, talk, talk, talk.
I am the last tenant on the fourth floor of an apartment building that is being completely rehabbed, and I have been thinking a lot about quiet recently.
See, I work out of my apartment, and having that apartment dropped in the middle of a construction site during working hours isn’t exactly conducive to quiet concentration. I have, however, figured out some ways to battle the noise (and researched others that I have yet to try). So if you’re looking for a little quiet — at home, at the office, or while traveling — I hope these suggestions can help you out. (See also: In Search of Silence: 4 Ways to Get Peace and Quiet)
I developed a bad habit in college that I haven’t been able to completely shake — wearing earplugs to bed. The good news is that I always have earplugs around, and they’re a cheap, easy-to-find (most drug stores have them), and relatively effective method of blocking noise. The downside is that earplugs often don’t block noise entirely, they just muffle it.
Listen to Music
If there’s one thing I’ve learned from stereotypical teenagers on TV, it’s that turning up the tunes is a great way to drown out annoying parents (parents who also, most likely, just don’t understand). If you’re trying to listen to music while working, the key is to find music you can work to. Personally, I can’t write to anything with lyrics, so recently I’ve been playing Ratatat and Pretty Lights in heavy rotation. Pumping the music directly into your ears with headphones can also be more effective than just playing it in your space.
Use Noise-Canceling Headphones
Of course, even more effective than listening to music through headphones is listening to music through noise-canceling headphones. They can be an investment, running between $100 and $300, but they read ambient noise in your immediate area and create a signal to cancel it out.
Close Your Windows
It's really quite simple, but if you’re getting noise from the outside, close your windows. This might mean you need to turn on the heat or AC, so there’s definitely a cost involved — but the white noise from the machines might help block the noise even more.
Pad Your Space
Soft things help suck in noise (that’s why you always see foam on the walls of recording studios). So opt for a plush living space instead of one with all hard surfaces — thick curtains, carpeting, pillows, and other bits of softness can all help dampen sound.
Renter’s website Tenant.net also recommends adding a second wall if you can.
When you’re better at focusing, it’s easier to block out noise.
Ask for the Noise to Stop
If you can, go to the source and ask for the noise to stop or the volume to be reduced. And I’m not talking about banging a broom on the ceiling — ask directly and politely. Moreover, make sure you’re asking the right person. Earlier today, I overheard a woman who lives on the floor below me chew out the construction workers for starting so early in the day. While I’m not thrilled about it either, it’s not their fault that our building management asked them to start banging around at 8 a.m.
Go Somewhere Else
When all else fails, it might just be time to go elsewhere. Sometimes I’ll work in a coffee shop (yes, it’s quieter than my apartment). At work, you might be able to temporarily move to another space, or even ask your boss for your desk to be moved permanently. But I'm sorry, that baby on the plane is not going anywhere (except your flight's final destination).
What methods do you use for dealing with noise?