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Everything Is Getting Louder (theatlantic.com)
319 points by tintinnabula 38 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 305 comments

For me the trigger is TVs. I've been renting a flat in a poorer area for over a year now. The walls are a lot thinner than in other places. There are a lot of people today (mostly 50+ year-olds) who cannot fall to sleep without the TV on. My neighbor is one of them. And the thing with TVs is that the most irritating sound frequency they emit is the one that is barely audible when you're in the same room, but when you are in the next room and trying to sleep it is the main frequency that you hear.

Another problem is that with a cheaper flat came generally noisier neighbors, i.e. frequently throwing out late-night parties, denying anyone around the luxury of sleep.

Then there are dogs whose owners don't seem to realize that dogs need to be walked and otherwise they will bark without end. This happens most often in the mornings and can go on for 2 hours easily and sets the tone for the day just right... It seems dog owners develop a special indifference to noise and their dogs.

All of that made me miserable. There were actually moments when this situation triggered suicidal thoughts.

I don't have a problem with cars passing by on the nearby high-speed road. If anything, the sound they make (very different from the sound of cars in traffic) is calming during the night.

I've recently got a new job which pays a lot better than the previous one, so in a couple of months I plan to move to a quieter neighborhood.

I sold my previous house precisely because of noisy neighbors (or rather their dogs). Their three dogs lived in the backyard permanently no matter what the weather - never seen them walked. Talked to the neighbors twice about the noise - no action. Called the cops at 3 in the morning - still nothing. Finally, I decided to sell the house and move somewhere where there is low dog density. I developed a dislike for dogs because of my previous neighbors. Even now, three years later, a barking dog drives me nuts, gets my heart going fast and blood boiling.

I had the very same experience and also sold my house because of it. The previous owners had sold it to me without disclosing the issue, but for the same reason (we disclosed it to our buyers).

The part of the article that resonated with me most was the feeling of helplessness, of impotence, of being assaulted and being unable to do anything to defend yourself.

I decided to sell the house when I started hating the dogs themselves. It wasn’t their fault, it was their awful owner, but after months of rough sleep in my guest bedroom (further away than the master) with earplugs in, I hated it all equally.

In Bavaria if your dog barks more than 30 minutes per day, the neighbours can record it on video, call the police and you will get fined. At first I thought this is astupid law but after reading your story I changed my mind.

in Bulgaria people will poison your dogs

In most places without sensible regulation they'd poison the dog, which opens the slippery slope to escalation. Bavarian law prevents that.

Same in Belize, I hear from J.McA.

It's didn't go so well for the dog killer.

Oh you know that happens in everywhere right?

Apparently not in the US, or not often enough to have an effect.

It happens here in the US, too[0]. The consequences, both criminal and civil, are generally not very severe. It may not be happening frequently enough to have an effect, or it may not be happening publicly enough to become a concern for owners. Plus, generally, the owners who are problems are already not very concerned about their dogs.

[0] - https://gazette.com/news/colorado-springs-woman-pleads-guilt...

I remember hearing about people putting sharp objects in food, like broken glass or blades.

Dogs... I can relate, but in the house it's not that bad. Heavy curtains/external blinds over windows usually are enough to filter out their barks, howls and whines. Now people with subwoofers - that's something much much much worse. You see high frequency filters well. Low frequency just goes straight through the walls and into your head and after hours of whomp whomp whomp you just want to go grab a canister of gasoline and burn the partying fuckers alive together with their whole sound setup from hell.

I live in a picturesque area, so it's usually assholes in cars coming to enjoy the views with extra bass, and while noise complaints to the police has remedied the situation quite a bit, it still randomly occurs. I've learned to really welcome bad weather, because that most often means a peaceful evening without the impotent rage.

This saddens me to hear this. I see in Zillow sooo many instances of a Yellow dot (sold, say 1/2018) then a red dot shows up as of 5/2018 and just sits on the market. The problem? the new neighbors. After analysis my wife and I have concluded, after seeing hundreds of homes (even with acreage) that neighbors are far far far the #1 reason a house goes for sale. It might be kids, dogs or music.

People like that should really not own dogs.

Everyone wants to get a dog when it’s cute and adorable as a puppy then they move on in life and have kids and other responsibilities and the dog just becomes a burden. There are definitely good dog owners, but there’s a ton of people who just have them and don’t really do anything with them besides feed them - dogs need exercise.

I’ll admit I surrendered the only dog I ever had after having her 6 years from when I was a college student until about 3 years after graduation. People usually think this is something to be ashamed of, but I knew the lifestyle I was living at the time was not good for an active dog (golden retriever). At that point in my life I was spending full days in an office and working out at the gym 1-2 hours per day, on top of sitting in traffic an hour or two, and I was moving into a one bedroom apartment after living in houses for most of the time I had a dog. I knew I would be subjecting the dog to a life of boredom and sleeping on the couch if I kept her.

Fortunately, for dogs like Goldens it is quite easy to find great homes through breed specific rescue societies, especially here in Austin (many thanks to Gold Ribbon Rescue).

I live with an endless barking dog. It isn't mine, but it wakes me constantly.

If there has been peace for a while and it barks, I can feel my entire body change "mode" to stressed. It is uncanny. Even if mentally it hasn't bothered me, my body still goes into battle mode.

I have the same reaction (physical) to a screaming kid. It has made raising my baby incredibly difficult (especially the first year). Mentally, I understand that it's just a crying baby and that's what they do, but physically I was shutting down - body tensing, a surge of extremely stressful energy rushing through my body and ultimately being left unable to function. My wife thought I was nuts and was just faking it. I tried searching for a medical explanation but came up short. The closest I would describe it as something I hear chronic fatigue people say -- not having energy to get up, no matter their mental state. I would sit there, practically paralyzed by stress, or whatever that stress induced.

I don't know about the paralysis but I once read an internet fact that stated our brains are innately wired to react to babies and children's screams in order to ward off potential threats to our retirement plans.

I believe it. I work in an environment that many people would consider stress inducing; I engage in amateur combat sports; however, when my six month old loses it, I absolutely get an immediate pulse raising stress reaction.

I've read articles that say that when they stress-test fighter pilots by having them do cognitive test while wearing headphones with different sounds, they usually mix in infants crying. It's one of the most distracting things for a person to hear.

For me, it wasn't when the kids started crying that was the most stressful, but when they wouldn't stop. You check their diapers, you check if they're hungry, you rock them gently, and even then sometimes they just wouldn't stop crying. After a while the noise would be so bad that I had to hand them off to my wife, and she did the same when she became too frustrated.

Funnily enough, it made me immune to other kids crying. Before I had kids I would get very irritated at noisy kids or crying infants in the subway. Now, I'm just happy it's not my kids and that it's someone else's problem!

In croatia there was a famous case of a judge ordering a dog not to bark at night.


...and now you know why nosy HOAs are so common even though people always talk about hating them.

It should be possible to have a simple rule requiring noise not to cross into a neighbor's residential property, without having a dedicated organization of busybodies collecting dues and micromanaging everything with a constantly changing set of restrictions.

this is not very simple. sound doesn't just "stop" at a certain point; it dissipates until a specific sound can't be heard over the noise floor. the only realistic approach is to set a dB level that can't be exceeded for a sustained duration. this is how the law already works in most localities; it just isn't enforced unless you really nag the police.

You can litigate everything forever if you want to be sufficiently pedantic, but that's missing the point. It's not that you don't at some point have to make a decision about how loud is too loud. It's that you can have a noise ordinance without giving anyone the capacity to compel anyone else to use a specific landscaping company or style.

> It's that you can have a noise ordinance without giving anyone the capacity to compel anyone else to use a specific landscaping company or style.

of course you can, this is how the law already works in most relatively dense places!

your original post seemed to imply that you weren't aware of noise ordinances outside of HOA bylaws, apologies if I misunderstood.

It's easy to define a rule; the hard part is enforcing it.

I've been on an HOA board for a couple of years.

Here are some of the things I have learned.

Some people (about 5%) are cranks. We have received legal threats because another owner parked in "their" unreserved parking space. Another owner disputed the cost of a roof repair: they had calculated the size of the roof over their condo and that's all they were willing to pay. It's easy to resolve a disagreement when both parties are reasonable but challenging when one of them isn't.

Some people don't read or listen. Some of the same people ask the same questions every month. You can send emails and place flyers but you will never reach everyone.

Some people are special snowflakes. Any HOA board receives regular requests to bend the rules for individuals.

Our rules have changed several times since I joined the board. None of these changes were done on a whim - each time it was in response to an issue or a liability to the association. Owners don't see the many emails and discussions behind a rule change.

Serving on an HOA board is a thankless job and can be a substantial time commitment. I joined the board because most of the other owners had already served and someone had to do it. I ran again last year because we are in the middle of a major construction project and I didn't want to leave the other board members hanging.

TLDR - HOAs are an exercise in politics on a small scale.

Agreed. Though I think the problem is because many of the HOAs don't price in their operating costs. Eg replying to mails. Though legal costs are usually passed on to the particular special snowflake tenant/owner afterwards.

If people were more aware that managing a community is work, they migh better appreciate it, and if they know it costs them money to send their idiotic requests, they would stop sending them. (And if not the members of the HOA will make money eventually the misbehaving member paying a heavy premium for its stubbornness.)

The problem with an HOA isn't that none of them can ever be caught in a state of not being literally on fire. It's that they generally have the power to do things that will mess up your life even though they shouldn't have that power to begin with, and one can turn from benign to malicious in a short period of time without an individual homeowner being able to stop it.

If the federal government is too big to be effective, an HOA is too small to be effective. They generally don't have the resources to make decisions carefully or fairly -- or if they do it's because you spent the time yourself and then the problem is they're consuming your life. But the decisions they make are nonetheless consequential to the people subject to them, so they can easily make your life hell by forcing you to choose between stupid nonsense and spending many hours of your life fighting to prevent stupid nonsense.


What happens if you get caught? The neighbor could also go berserk when finding out, I imagine there's not too many suspects.

How could they know who did it? It could be any one of their neighbors, and most lots have 5 adjacent lots.

In a place I used to live, there was a rooster that would constantly crow. Someone killed it. I wasn't involved but I'm certainly glad it happened. That rooster was driving the neighborhood insane. The police were useless in that situation. They never cared about noise complaints.

Basically if the state doesn't take care of these problems, people will. And when they do, it's not pretty.

That's why police exist in the first place (if you're not thinking too cynically about it). The main job of police is to reduce vigilante justice and mob violence. If the police don't shut up someone's dog, convict a blatant rapist, or punish a murderer, expect the people to take it into their own hands.

> convict ... punish

The police shouldn't be, and aren't, tasked with, those things.

Not being as close to neighbors is the primary reason I moved from an apartment to a house several years ago.

This was both to not have to hear them when I'm trying to sleep, and to not have to worry about me being the obnoxious noisy neighbor for them when they were sleeping because I was often quite the night owl and would have liked to be able to watch a movie or listen to music at 3 AM.

Here's an aerial view centered on my house [1]. To give an idea of scale, from the center of my house to the center of the house to the left is 130 ft.

Being able to watch/listen whenever I want as loud as I want, and have quiet mostly whenever I want [2] has definitely resulted in a calmer, happier, less stressful life.

[1] https://imgur.com/hKnTWji

[2] During spring and summer, there is a bit of lawn mower noise.

+1000 about the quiet -> less stress. It's something very few people get. Mostly just old people that get a few acres know about it.

for me, i personally find that the construction of the apartment matters a lot more than how noisy my neighbors are; I moved from a duplex in a very quiet neighborhood in sunnyvale to an apartment right under the SJC flight path, but the old place was last updated in the '60s and had single-pane windows, while the new place was built in the '80s and upgraded pretty significantly in the aughts. It is rare that I hear noises loud enough to notice over a running fan or air purifier when the windows are all buttoned up.

Double/triple pane windows make a huge difference (as does offset studs drywall standoffs)

I agree but unfortunately in my experience the opposite is true in Texas - newer construction usually has thinner walls with less dampening between dwellings. Windows are usually fine though.

Huh. that's an interesting point I hadn't thought of; I always attributed the difference in quality to just, you know, the stricter housing code and better building tech in general... but that's not the only factor at work in Silicon Valley.

In Silicon Valley, sure, most of the housing stock was built rather a long time ago, yes, but it was also built to the expectations of people who didn't make a lot of money. The newer stuff around here is built for people who are in the top 5% or better of incomes, so it's likely they use more expensive construction techniques, too.

I'm living in a newer building in SF, and while it's not like the walls are paper thin, the construction is still lacking in many respects, especially ventilation (toxic levels of anything airborne travel from apartment to apartment) and floor-to-floor noise isolation.

These are some of the many reasons that I'll never voluntarily live in a shared-wall apartment or townhouse again. People coming and going, dogs barking, couples fighting or having loud sex (or both at the same time), bass music from the ghetto-cruisers in the parking lot, and TVs, TVs, TVs! No way, never again. Unless I fall into total financial ruin, for me it's single family home, ideally with lots of space and vegetation between my next-door neighbors.

It sucks that this kind of housing just isn't getting built anymore, even in my almost entirely suburban town. Buyers who want this kind of housing and lifestyle need to settle for older and older homes. When was the last time a single family home was built that's not the same footprint as the lot size? 1990? All that's going up around me are those so-called "luxury" 3-story condos, stacked up and mashed together on tiny lots. That's probably what is most profitable for developers, so who can blame them? There just don't seem to be enough of us in the market for peace and quiet.

What's stopping your from buying a lot and then hiring a contractor to build a house on it?

Why not using an ultrasonic bark control device?

I started using a bark control collar with one of my dogs, after a neighbour complained when my dog barked too much one afternoon when it was left alone at home.

So, now, as soon as it's on, she never barks (as she learned how it works), which is helpful when I need to go several hours leaving her alone. Never had another complaint.

I haven't tried the ultrasonic ones, as the other dog never barks, so I thought it would have been unfair to have both "punished" because of one.

But I guess in your case it would have been really useful.

The dogs are not the problem - the people are. Your dislike of dogs should be more a dislike of freckless pet owners. It's the same with some special birdies in aviary. They can drive you nuts because they don't belong to this environment. It's mostly not the animals but the owners who are the cause of the problem.

This is a strawman argument and simply not relevant. Dogs are animals, and therefore they cannot have "fault" in the philiosophical sense. By the way, it is funny how the same people then go on to anthropomorphize dogs, as "loving" and so on. The point is that dogs can be dangerous, or annoying, and irrespective of any fault should be removed or banned in certain circumstances, just to remove the annoyance, not to punish anyone or anything. And it has also nothing to do with idiot owners. The owner can be the most responsible (most aren't), that's simply no help, if e.g. the walls are to thin, or if the neighbor has a lower noise threshold. The luxury hobby of keeping loud carnivores should simply not take precedence over the neighbors' need for silence.

Aren't people animals too?

This is just the "guns don't kill people, people kill people" argument, but with dogs.

Of course if every dog owner was perfect then we wouldn't have problems with dogs, but you will never get everyone to be perfect, it's a losing battle, wether they be gun or dog owners.

I'm willing to bet that 99% of dog owners around me are responsible, but whetever percentage of dog owners are not responsible are the cause of all the shit that coats the pavements of my town.

we need to ban assault dogs, and close the dog-show loophole! :P

> ban assault dogs

Unironically, yeah.

When I was in a similar situation I ended up paying for a few hundred dollars worth of acoustic foam for the walls. It didn’t stop everything, especially stopping noise from upstairs neighbors, but it was still a huge help.

It’s unsightly though. The kinds that are actually nice to look at as wall decoration are super expensive.

Did you do a before and after dB measurement? I'm curious on quantitatively how well it worked as I was thinking of doing the same thing but I talked to a few musician buddies and read many things like https://acousticalsolutions.com/how-to-soundproof-acoustic-f... & https://soundproofcentral.com/soundproof-foam/ and all seem to agree foam stuck on a wall is for echo not soundproofing so didn't try it out. Also many reported that things like mass loaded Vinyl on it's own isn't that great either. It seems that on top of foam panels on the wall in a sandwich fashion is the best but that was too much cost for me to try.

Yes - foam will damp higher frequencies, but do nothing at all for bass. The only way to eliminate bass is with a combination of mass - multiple layers of Rock Wool, Roxul, and such - with air gaps and some extra stand-off damping.

It's usually possible to make a positive difference, but if it's a serious problem a workable fix - better, but not perfect - will eat up a lot of room space.

The real problem is that most apartments and houses are built cheaply and building codes for acoustic isolation aren't nearly aggressive enough. They seem to stop at the level which makes conversations hard to hear, which isn't much help when people have TVs and/or subwoofers.

My flat in Stockholm, Sweden was built within the last year, the landlord cheaped out on things like stoves but the damn walls are THICK. Maybe it’s necessary for our winters, but it really gets it quiet. Also cellphone coverage is near zero away from the windows. I guess it’s quiet in multiple spectra.

I didn’t measure it unfortunately. It definitely didn’t stop everything, I could still hear a lot of stuff, but it just dulled it enough that it was easier to tune out.

I think most of the sound was actually echoing through the ductwork and leaking past gaps in the doors rather than going through party walls so if it was actually possible I’d try to get in there.

Ideally though, the soundproofing needs to happen in the room where the sound is happening rather than in your space. The building I’m in now reserves the right to require you to put rugs down if your neighbors complain. When I got a dog I put a bunch down so the downstairs neighbors didn’t have to deal with the constant patter of his feet.

Apparently a vacuum or a void filled with Helium even a small one will stop sound. Probably impractical but it's an interesting idea.

I imagine the sound of a compressor would outweigh the noise :-)

Real-estate agents know they can light up the churn-rate in a neighborhood by just moving in one neighbors-from-hell family as it is a self-reinforcing process. This is the reverse of gentrification.

Fanning these waves of uplift and deterioration at the right frequency is what brings home the bacon.

I use Howard Leight’s Max every night during sleep to keep my sanity.

Sometimes the "noise" is not heard but felt due to poor dampening of the structures and inferior - if any in the first place - sound proofing.

You feel the sharp slamming of the doors, stairway exits and other household "noise" - as the tremors travel along the length and breadth of the structure - all the way in your living quarters.

With audible noise you can atleast wear earplugs / use noise cancelling devices. With those tremors theres no escaping them. You feel your walls and floors tremble and its a great nuisance.

I can't believe there are no laws on the books that require builders to use vibration-dampening, sound-proofing materials / buffers for even newly constructed apartment buildings !!

I mean none of this is exactly new. Noisome and insensitive neighbors are dime a dozen.

> You feel the sharp slamming of the doors, stairway exits and other household "noise" - as the tremors travel along the length and breadth of the structure - all the way in your living quarters.

For the love of Flying Spaghetti Monster so much this. So far as I can tell, my neighbors barely make an audible sound. But the continual slamming doors, closing drawers, heavy walking, rolling of chairs, clomping up and down the building stairs...all of it comes straight into my unit and reverberates like the lowest string of a bass guitar and sets me on edge.

I'm slowly getting used to it--mostly by telling myself that they can't hear what they're doing, they're not doing it intentionally, and I'm sure I make the same sounds--but it's super hard because it's very distracting to me.

I've been in numerous poorly built apartments and the only effective way I ever found to mask doors/cabinets slamming, footsteps etc. was with a portable hose AC unit. The compressor was loud and generated a nice masking low frequency tone making it harder to hear that nonsense. It took a week to adjust to the sound, but after that it was quite soothing. Of course this isn't actually solving anything, it's just driving up the noise floor for low frequency and contributing to making everything louder.

Unfortunately they're heavy, woefully inefficient, and quite expensive to run.

I later moved into a newly built "luxury" apartment where the neighbors garage was directly under my bedroom. I figured as long as I got a decent neighbor it wouldn't be too bad. Struck out and got someone underemployed driving a 2 fast 2 furious civic with custom exhaust. Shook the entire building every night between 12 and 4 AM. No way to mask that. Lesson learned.

Top floor always, corner if you can, never directly above or next to a garage. Only exception is if the building is made out of concrete, which is exceptionally rare and will cost more. More expensive place the better -- you have a (slightly) higher chance of getting next to working professionals and quiet families.

I'm in a similar situation, the parking garage for my block of apartments is rigght under my bedroom. It's not too bad, except for one neighbour's motorcycle, where he is obviously using a modified exhaust to be louder. In the winter he likes to leave the engine to warm up for about 5 minutes every morning at 7am...

if you care, you might talk to building management about this. I also live in a building with a garage and there is a very strict "no idling" rule. it's bad to have unnecessary CO emissions in a somewhat enclosed area in the first place, but it can also set off the detector and then everyone has to evacuate the building.

I used to sleep with earplugs very nicely until I got an ear infection and the doctor told me to lay off them.

So I bought a bluetooth speaker that can play files off a SD card, and loaded it up with a 1 hour rain sounds file and play that in a loop as white noise when I sleep.

Feels better as my brain can focus on the soothing sounds of the rain instead of the thoughts that sometimes creep up in the silence of the earplugs.

I use this free software application on my phone at night: https://f-droid.org/en/packages/org.mcxa.softsound/ F-Droid also has another app called Noice which is more modern and has more features&sounds, but I prefer the sound samples in this one.

I just put the phone in the charger in my bedroom and turn up the volume a bit, though I am considering getting speakers since the rain sound doesn't sound 100% perfect through the phone speakers.

I use a mix of storm@100%, rain @90%, and wind+fire at 70-80%.

I don't have an issue with loud neighbours, but it helps to fall asleep and makes a daily routine which also helps with falling asleep fast.

I grew up sleeping with a humidifier first in my room and then just some kind of noisy fan. Nowadays I use a Marpac sound machine, like you see in doctors offices sometimes. Kind of a quirky habit but silence feels so... deafening.

I use an air filter for white noise. I breath better too.

You should throw away the earplugs every few days. Or, you could use soft silicone putty earplugs, and sterilize them during the day.

I did exchange them often, that's not the problem. The problem is with earpulgs in summer moisture accumulates in your ear canal and with the lack of oxygen bacteria thrives inside.

Damn, I was worried this might be a thing. No issues yet but coming on two years of daily use... might be time to look for some alternatives.

how do you sterilize them?

Rubbing (isopropyl) alcohol works.

would peroxide work?

Check out the ambience apps. It's doing this, but very customizable!

On the other hand, a memory card won't start skipping at 10PM when the kids downstairs start playing with their $10 aliexpress quadcopter that barfs theoretically highly illegal quantities of RF all over 2.4GHz.

Ditto for $2 aliexpress chargers and their gaggle of $20 whitelabeled progeny on amazon.

Fair. I haven't faced that oddly specific situation :).

When earplugs are not an option (or insufficient) I've found a pair of sleep headphones have been helpful in combination with a noise app, such as the Cozyphones shown here: (halfway down the page)


They’re great. But the sound of my own heart beat is annoying. And I’m worried about if I’d hear the smoke alarm.

"But the sound of my own heart beat is annoying" I just realized how ridiculous that sounds. I am moaning that I am alive!

They are the best earplugs! I have tried loads of other brands and none compare.

As blunte pointed out[1], earplugs make the situation worse.

[1]: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21237273

That's not a general-purpose argument against earplugs, as some people have noise problems in the frequency that they do block out (this was the case for me)

what about bose sleepbuds?

> And the thing with TVs is that the most irritating sound frequency they emit is the one that is barely audible when you're in the same room, but when you are in the next room and trying to sleep it is the main frequency that you hear.

Are you talking about the low-frequency burbling? I have windows that face the street and used to have a sleep disorder that made me more sensitive to noise, and when I'd occasionally sleep in the living room I'd get woken up in the morning by this emanating from my neighbor's apt.

> All of that made me miserable. There were actually moments when this situation triggered suicidal thoughts.

I feel you 100%,its really hard to describe how life-destroying consistent lack of sleep is. Earplugs worked wonders for me (along with the longer term solution of fixing my disorder, but that's not relevant here).

Could also be an issue with speaker placement. Most flat panel TVs have a speaker pointing down or backwards at the wall due to small bezel flat screen design.

I wonder how much of the TV problem comes down to the plague of audio engineers creating tracks that you have to turn the volume up on to hear the quite parts? I always need to have my TV at a higher volume than necessary to deal with this. "Silicon Valley's empathy problem" has been a meme for a while now but with awful sound leveling and stuff like not seeing the battle of Winterfell because of how I "tuned my TV" it seems creators are increasingly out of touch with consumers.

And then there's the ads at a higher volume.

> Then there are dogs whose owners don't seem to realize that dogs need to be walked and otherwise they will bark without end.

FWIW, the problem is not always a lack of walking. One of my dogs developed separation anxiety after I left for two weeks, and began howling in his crate. (We train dogs and are fixing the underlying anxiety with training. Bark collars can be effective at fixing the symptom.)

As someone who lives in an apartment building close to several bars, a simple white noise app did wonders for my sleep. I just leave it on a mix of sounds I find soothing, and it hides most of the noise that would keep me awake.

If the noises aren't too loud, a noise machine can help. I have one on 24/7 and most of the sounds that were irritating me before now get drowned in the noise and I don't even notice them.

Perhaps you could also add more natural sounds such as wind, rain or sea-waves.

Which make and model do you have?

Earplugs and a white noise app!

As blunte pointed out[1], earplugs make the situation worse.

[1]: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21237273

I found this article's style infuriatingly slow. If it had been a quarter or a third of the length I think it would have been much stronger. It took quite a while to figure out what the hell was going on. And then you get to things like this halfway through:

> Thallikar took his campaign to his homeowners’ association and to his neighbors. The response was tepid, though he did persuade one person to email the city.

Which makes it seem like it's just the personal bugaboo of one person rather than a serious problem, and having read far too many words already I just want to give up.

Where were the editors for this piece?

Agreed, needed editing though I fully sympathize with the people in the author's story. The drug shithole I used to live in after prison was crackheads screaming for hours after blowing up pipes in their face when a rain drop hits it after they heat it up, crackheads getting robbed and fighting all night, shootings, constant ambulance and firetruck sirens for fentanyl ODs, my neighbours door being kicked in by a drug collector, or the sounds of an entire crew of garbagemen at 4am shoveling and scraping the street of needles, nothing but constant noise. Walking up in dead sleep to police banging their flashlight on your door asking if you want to be a witness to whatever drug murder happened while you were unconscious. The beautiful freedom when you move to the most remote part of a country and you can't hear a thing all night except a river rushing. Nobody screaming, nobody crying for hours on end, no arguements over petty bullshit. No pepper spray victims screaming no police blaring on their cruiser mic to clear the streets because they can't be bothered to exit the car, no fire alarms because your neighbor fell asleep while his crack burned away on the stove, no helicopters looking for somebody with a spotlight in your window.

What’s a drug collector? Or is that a typo. I just want to know what one is if there is a such a thing.

Like a debt collector but specifically for drug money.

And mama cooked the breakfast with no hog.

I know it sounds like bs. But here I am https://bc.ctvnews.ca/police-investigate-after-man-found-dea... and I was a witness in this trial my full name in court records avail to anybody https://www.pressreader.com/canada/the-province/20080411/281...

you know who I am now, who are you?

I don't think that was the implication of the GP comment? I think it was just phonetically riffing off of the "no X, no Y" structure of the end of your comment, in reference to Ice Cube lyrics:

> No barking from the dogs, no smog, and mama cooked the breakfast with no hogs

I swear my brain was cooked living in that area too long. Excuse my cringeposting tangent

This. I have no problem reading a 8000+-page article if it's about a complex subject and I'm really learning things all the way through. But here, the signal-to-noise ratio is just too low. I could have learned the same in a quarter of the length.

In general, for me, articles where the first sentence talks about a particular person (meaning that they are going to tell a personal story to exemplify whatever issue they're talking about) are a red flag. They all feel samey and they are a waste of time to read. I wonder why that writing style is so common nowadays.

I did skim this one because I was particularly bored...

A lot of people like a story. The article writers want to write in story form. Personally, I'm with you. I've learned to scan these articles and try and extract the meat. It's like the literary version of eating sunflower seeds. Very inefficient.

//I wonder why that writing style is so common nowadays

Google sends more traffic to articles that capture the user attention.

> > Thallikar took his campaign to his homeowners’ association and to his neighbors. The response was tepid, though he did persuade one person to email the city.

> Which makes it seem like it's just the personal bugaboo of one person rather than a serious problem, and having read far too many words already I just want to give up.

Later on it tells that other people complained too, an organisation gets set up, the company replies, etc.

But yeah, I agree, too much narrative. Some is good, but this is too much.

I liked the structure and delivery. The writer tries to sound sympathetic and paint the complaints as genuine, but it's delibrately left vague whether the person was misunderstood or delusional judging by the reaction of everyone else in the story. The seek for vindication motivates the reader to follow the text and the payoff was very well executed towards the end.

I'm sorry you didn't like it but it doesn't take that long to read anyway. Maybe a Medium style "time to read" notice would have helped, but I just think people don't give long form content the respect it deserves.

I'm really glad you liked it! Perhaps I'm being too critical; but in any case not everyone must like something for it to have merit.

I usually really like long form journalism and am glad when I see it these days, but the payoff felt much lower than typical long form for me. There's so much good content these days that even though I wanted to learn about this topic, after several thousand words I didn't feel like there was enough signal to justify the noise. (Excuse the pun)

I had almost the opposite reaction. It was too long, but I didn't have any trouble figuring out what was going on (and guessing the ending). I was wondering what the purpose of the article was, given that it's perfectly obvious to me that modern life is too loud, corporations are usually to blame, and tend to refuse to clean up their act. Just listen! How can you not hear it?

This is a difficult topic to report on, because some people will not understand at all, and some people will not understand how others cannot understand. There doesn't seem to be any middle ground on this issue.

The real mystery is why they didn't use multimedia, which would be the perfect vehicle for this. Instead of (or in addition to) writing some poetry about noise, play some noise! Instead of describing the mathematical foundation of white noise, when you're at that part of the article, play some white noise! Alternate with sections of silence, which everyone will then be able to appreciate.

When you care about communicating a message, you've got to match the medium to the message. Otherwise you're not a reporter with an exposé. You're just a writer who wants to show off your clever writing.

I have been getting that feeling about some articles on the Atlantic in the recent months, poor editing resulting in overlong articles when the subject matter plainly does not require such confused and long winded treatment.

Also the mis-use of obscure vocabulary:

> In other words, it’s a data center—a columbarium for thousands of servers that store data for access and processing from virtually anywhere in the world.

I didn't know the word columbarium so I looked it up [1]. I don't think it's an appropriate word for this context and not good journalism. You could possibly stretch its meaning to describe a data centre in a poem or novel, but that's a different domain to journalism.

[1] https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/columbarium

The article clocked in at 8900 words and had a vague click-baity 'tech industry' sub-title. Hard pass.

Jesus Christ that's longer than a novel chapter. What kind of conceited ass actually writes this and thinks it's good?

The article has a pretty clear "main story ->side info -> main story -> side info" structure. So I just read the main story parts and thought it was a pretty good read.

That's what I hate. I keep going back and forth skimming for names to try and parse what paragraph relates to what. I'd much rather read two separate articles for each thing.

Same thoughts as well. I just scrolled half way through to see what the person ended up discovering. The whole bit in between was infuriating.

For anyone looking for what the article is (mainly) about before reading it all: chiller whine for large datacenters/complexes between 630-1000 Hertz. Ironically at no point in the story did anyone actually find out how loud the noise was.

That's what was so weird to me. The guy was an engineer and it never occurred to him to go out and get some scientific measurements? Instead, he just wastes time sending daily emails to city council members and contacting other authorities like the police. It also appears that the sounds not only don't bother most everyone else, but they can't even hear them.

If you are going to make such a concerted effort to fix something, at least get some objective data or else you risk looking like someone with a mental illness or like someone who is "allergic" to WiFi.

Ever since I moved to the states, I've had nothing but stress from noise. First in Midwest where neighbor never walked their dog. They blasted music at 3 am (confronted many times and all). Then on the west coast - noisy streets nearby my apt. Then between the 405 and the 5 in Irvine (the highway noise never ends) Then again when I moved to Washington and had an upstairs neighbor who would have kids over every day running, all day no carpets. When running stopped, vacuum came on. Rinse and repeat. All those years I have developed hate for the way things were. It seems no matter where I went there was no escape from noise. Three years ago I moved to rural Japan and my life has changed dramatically. Over here, everyone has kids in my neighborhood. Naturally, they get quiet around 8pm and I don't hear a single sound by 9-10pm. It's been heaven. Now when I sleep through the night it's dead silent and I can rest my weary soul. The area lacks in so many other ways, but the dead silence of the night makes up for all of them. I wish everyone had a chance to sleep in complete silence (unless you are one of those people that needs sound to sleep).

I'm quite sensitive to noises. Here are some of my hard-learned lessons:

- try to always rent the flat on the top floor - the noises coming through the celing are by far the worst. The roofs in my country are usually poorly insulated, which means hot apartment in the summer. It's still better than the noise - heat can be dealt with by installing AC, while you can't do anything about the neighbors.

- try to live in a building with as few apartments as possible. Noise travels well through construction materials, and if you live in say 200-meter long building, chances are there will often be someone currently renovating his flat with a jackhammer etc. and that noise will be infuriatingly loud in your apartment.

- no windows coming out to the street that's a transit street (i.e. used regularly by anyone else than the people who live on the street and around). Double no if public transit goes there. Also, it's worse to have a window near a crossroad with lights or near a turn (people slow down and/or stop there, and then accelerating generates a lot of noise). Ideally, no windows coming on a street at all, but for example cull-de-sac road is ok, because it's guaranteed to be used by locals only.

Apart from that, I'm always insiting on seeing some landscape, or at least a big patch of the sky, out of my window. Nothing more depressing than 100% of your view being just a wall of the opposing building.

Many people either cannot hear very low frequency sound, and they cannot understand what it’s like for those of us who can.

The sounds don’t necessarily get louder at night - there are just fewer competing sounds to mask them.

Earplugs and other sound barriers make it worse by filtering out higher frequency sounds, making the remaining VLF sounds seem louder.

VLFs also penetrate earth, stone, concrete, etc. And because of their long periods, especially when accidentally synced with parallel walls, some locations in your house can behave like an amplifier.

There’s no real solution other than moving, and there’s no guarantee that human progress will not catch up with you in your next location.

As a trained sound engineer, I don't find this explanation wholly plausible. Human hearing is increasingly less sensitive at low frequencies; the threshold of hearing is typically around 60dB at 20Hz and 72dB at 10Hz. Anyone who has configured a large public address system knows that vast amounts of power are needed to deliver useful response at these frequencies; many systems simply fake the presence of low bass by tuning in a big peak at 40 or 50Hz, which requires two or three orders of magnitude less power.

Structure-borne noise is a real problem in many buildings, but I'm aware of very few instances of neighbourhood-wide noise problems at very low frequencies.


I can’t say whether it is an ear hearing or some other sensitivity to resonance (of the skull?).

The sensation is stronger on one side/ear, and it feels like the pressure you feel if someone goes “puh” softly in your ear in a quiet room... except that it happens over and over at a low frequency.

I have experienced it in several different places. One place was at college on the cliffs overlooking the Mississippi river, and I suspect it was from the boats that push barges (cargo) down the river.

Other places have been near heavy freight train routes, particularly when a train is idling somewhere within perhaps a mile.

It’s like if a big truck is idling a few houses down the street in a quiet neighborhood.

In one location in the mountains of Colorado, the sound could be heard a many locations throughout the valley. I know this because i drove around in the quiet and remote regions, stopping periodically to listen. Some spots were impressively loud, and others were not audible. In that environment I suspect it was due to wind over the mountain ridge (sharp edged on one side, and the wind would cause a pressure differential to build until it would break and the air would take a chaotic path briefly). This is similar to what you see and hear with a fireplace where the fire is burning mostly on one side of a log, but the air flows in a way that creates a pressure differential... and it may cause a puff puff puff pattern that is both audible and visible (flame leaping around the other side of the log exactly at the moment you hear the puff).

TLDR: Please have your hearing thoroughly tested.

I have no idea if this anecdote relates to your experience:

My SO was hearing a rhythmic noise. More so at night. Very disturbing. Much drama.

An audiologist (?) determined some of the tiny hairs inside one of the ears were flopping around. The supporting membrane got slack with age. A form of tinnitus.

These tiny hairs are sensitive to motion, so even heartbeats and breathing will create the sensation of sound.

Were there it not that my perception of the sound was highly dependent upon my location (even within one room), I might be inclined to believe it was my problem.

If you’ve ever played with a good subwoofer, you know that where you stand relative to the speaker and the frequency it is generating greatly impacts your ability to hear it. You can be in a dead zone and hear almost nothing, but a few steps back or forward and suddenly your eyeballs are vibrating. Same thing with these environmental hum situations, but much more subtle.

Of course environment & context effects hearing. Ears perceive changing air pressure as sound. The body feels other frequencies (whatever that's called).

FWIW, my SO's perceptions varied with location as well.

At the very least, an audiologist (?) would help you rule out factors. Or in our case, becoming more aware of the current best available science.

Think of it as a physical. I certainly wish I had my hearing periodically thoroughly assessed. Like I already do for my pulmonary function, eyesight, BMI, etc.

Also FWIW, even though my SO's condition is untreatable, awareness helped her better manage it.

I hope you find some relief. Keep looking. Someone, somewhere has the answers you need.

Best wishes.

Thanks. It's probably worth getting checked, because as you say it may help me understand how to manage things better.

Fortunately it's rare that I'm in a location that's so bad for me that I can't handle it. The low-speed air purifier (fan) solution is usually good enough when necessary.

I suggest you skim this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Hum

Please see my other comment about undiagnosed tinnitus. I recently learned there are many different kinds. (Mine is from too much loud Drum & Bass.)

My SO got obsessed with our local version of The Hum. Attending meetups, talking to strangers on nextdoor, letter writing, and so forth.

While I have no doubt there are noises and other phenomenon that most people can't perceive, eg some animals seem to anticipate earth quakes, I prefer Occam's Razor more.


As trained sound engineer on HN, you sould use units which mean something, now you essentally just said '60 times more' so people will ask you 'more than what?' :)

I would have thought that SPL is implied, given that no other unit would make sense in that context.

Yes, but I have the impression a lot of people who never came into contact with some kind of audio/hearing theory have no clue about that, so I think it is better to write it explicitly. Mainly because people who don't know what SPL means can just go and look it up, also learning comething, instead of remaining clueless and using dB as-is treating it as some absolute quantity.

As a trained sound engineer, you should know that the experience of low-frequency sound is not largely via the eardrum. The whole body is involved.

There is a difference between "being able to hear" very low frequencies and a situation where the inner ear has been sensitized - in many cases through a continuous LFN immission that's slightly below the average hearing threshold. If the exposure is constant, the dampening mechanism that is managing the adaption of the cochlea to sound of various intensities can "wear out" on a cellular level and the ear is basically reverting back to it's original (= super sensitive) state. The process of sensitization can also be accelerated/caused through the presence of ototoxic substances like certain organic solvents, desinfectants or antibiotics. Persons with this type of cochlear damage will experience a tiny low-frequency tonal peak in an otherwise "normal" sound spectrum as almost painfully loud, booming (spread out in frequency) and/or as a pressure on the ear. This damage will not show up in standard hearing tests, in fact, pure-tone audiometry will show above-average results. Currently, only DPOAE testing could in theory reveal this type of (rather common) cochlear damage in a non-invasive way. Even though not totally understood, there is epidemiological evidence that this type of aural sensitization is connected with (read: the cause of) disrupted sleep, higher cortisol levels and thus a heightened risk of infections, cardiovascular disease. The lack of sleep frequently leads to depression and anxiety disorders. ... more here: https://biology.stackexchange.com/questions/30101/do-our-ear...

I wonder if it's any relation to other heightened sensitivities, such as to bright light (compared to how other people handle it), lots of competing sounds (large loud halls full of people having independent conversations), and just general hyper-awareness of everything around oneself.

Whether it's accepted or not as "a thing", the book "The Highly Sensitive Person" did mostly describe me. I read the book only recently, so I didn't develop the sensitivities as a result of reading about them :).

It is important to stress that the mechanism described are completely disconnected from so-called psychological aspects "personality traits" and general sensory processing (like falling into the HSP definition). Elaine Aaron's work is remarkable from a scientific standpoint but should also encourage people to pay more attention to the type and amount of external stimuli we expose ourselves to.

The effect of being unable to follow a conversation in a noisy environment however, IS a solid indicator of the processes I describe (you might want to look up "hidden hearing loss" - Kujawa & Libermann have published on this phenomenon).

I have never heard of this and have a hard time believing it but I’m curious.

What causes “low frequency sound” for you?

And why do you think other people can’t hear it? At low frequencies tones degrade into individual pulses but can still be heard/felt.

Noise-cancelling headphones actually work best with low frequencies like train and plane noise... do those help you?

Googling “VLF” only gives results about radio waves, none I can find referring to sound waves...

So about a year before I moved out of Seattle I started hearing this HUM around the University District. It was low pitched but it was everywhere. And it was especially in my bedroom. All night long. My sleep became a lot less sound.

My boyfriend never heard it. Ever. He’d sleep right next to me. His ears just didn’t go down that low, I guess. Or maybe my skull resonated with this noise better than his did, I dunno.

I have no idea what caused it. It went down over time, but I’d still hear it pretty much every night I slept in my apartment. Sleep elsewhere and it was gone.

I moved to another city. It didn’t follow me. I’ve mostly forgotten how glad I am to not have that low frequency hum be a constant presence in my life. Thanks for reminding me how grateful I should be for it being gone! ️

I had the same situation with a partner who couldn’t hear it and got tired of me complaining. I asked a neighbor, and he said he heard it but his wife did not... and that she got tired of him complaining too!

The only solution I found was to turn on an air purifier to generate soft, low pitched white noise. With just a little increase of noise across more frequencies, my brain would relax. I suppose it’s like water drop torture compared to a soft shower.

I've moved house a few times because of the low frequency hum. It drives me absolutely insane, to the point of sleep deprivation and major anxiety/stress. I can't explain why some places I lived in had it, and others didn't, but finally finding a city/area that doesn't have it has ensured that me and my family will live here forever.

The main thing I could think of that those places had, was most were in built up areas. Inner suburbs of major cities, apartment living, etc.

It was like a very very low frequency hum in the back of my skull, at the absolute bottom limit of being audible but definitely a distinct sound.

i’m not going to post the same reply twice, but if you would read my reply to a sibling post you’ll see what i’m talking about.

Thanks, and someone else posted [1] so now I could look for more info on it!

I'm now extremely curious -- what do noise-cancelling headphones do for you? You can see here [2] that Bose's QC35's reduce the lowest frequencies (down to 20 Hz) by between 10 and 30 dB -- and the Wikipedia link suggests that the Hum is in the range of 32-80 Hz, so is certainly covered.

If they make a difference, that could indicate that you truly do have a kind of extreme sensitivity there, while if they don't, it could be another (real but non-auditory) phenomenon that your ear/brain is interpreting as sound, e.g. tinnitus.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Hum

[2] https://www.rtings.com/headphones/1-2/graph#565/2090

I don't think they would be particularly helpful for sleeping. Firstly, they would need to have very good microphone sensitivity to detect the (very?) low frequencies or at least the low sound pressures of those low freqs.

Also, when I tried the new big Sony noise canceling headphones (very highly rated), I found the sensation somewhat unsettling. They did indeed shut out practically every external sound (in a big store, not at home in bed), but I perceived some kind of constant subtle positive air pressure in my head similar to what you feel about half a meter under water.

My solution now in the rare case where I'm in a location that bothers me is to use some low speed fan to create lower frequency white noise. Also, either I've been luckier the last few years where I've lived or I'm becoming less sensitive to it, because I don't get bothered as often.

Just realized that Stackexchange is currently showing only an abridged version of my blurb on the question of "adaption to LFN (low frequency noise)", so I paste the long version below. Links to literature can be found in my other post(s). I don't cover the involvement of the otolith organs (yet) but that's your connection of a low-frequency sound stimulus to the sensation of (whole body) vibration, dizziness, balance problems, blurred vision, changes in peripheral blood flow and breathing problems.


Very quickly and totally from the top of my head: Traffic noise is in many cases dominated by low frequencies, with the whole spectrum somewhat similar to a distorted 1/f function, with a few tonal peaks for exhaust noise and tyre/tread sounds. Now add the structure you are living in: "excellent sound insulation" in the EU is (still) dB(A)-focused, meaning architects and planners are aiming for a "wow" effect in noise reduction by eliminating that what's easy to eliminate - high and mid frequencies, ignoring mostly the low (and energy-rich) frequencies, which are incidentally the ones the A-weighing of noise is (historically) ignoring as well. As a result, you are basically living in what's known as a low-pass filter, one that is also "drawing" tonal peaks (resonances, room nodes) out of that low-frequency noise mixture. At first, your cochlea's short-term adaption mechanisms will do their job well and tone down signals that are not meaningful (MOC reflex). Over time however, the presence of low-level tonal, continuous sounds can damage ("wear out") a specific sensor type necessary for this reflex to work. As a result, even inaudible LFN noise can, over time, lead to a distal sensitization effect. In many cases the culprit is actually not the traffic noise itself, but HVAC installations like heat pumps, A/Cs and gas turbines. The effect of "I can hear too much" (being aware of noises) as a result of sub-threshold LFN-exposure is known in the medical literature as a symptom of VAD stage I / II and in fact quite common in the urban population. Certain medications (Gentamycine, cis-platines) as well as organic solvents (acetone) and some disinfectants can speed up this process, which is non-reversible and poses a risk factor for suffering atypical (early onset) hearing loss later on... The "I hear too much" effect has been quite a solid indicator of long-term, low-level IS/LFN noise pollution. To be on the safe side and to rule out a sub-threshold LFN-problem, you should an have an acoustician do a "LCeq-LAeq" (should not be more than 3-4dB) and an unweighted (FFT) spectrogram to see if there is a constant tonal peak below, say, 50Hz. Also, try to wear good earplugs like UVEX Whisper or UVEX Whisper Plus at night until you can rule out any constant / nocturnal IS/LFN immissions into your place.

Wow. This is much more information on this topic than I've ever found on my own searching. I also laughed at "living in a low-pass filter". Yes! Never considered that, but indeed it's true.

I do wonder, however, that since our brains interpret sensory signals, could one train the brain to disregard annoying ones?

Well, a certain level of habituation can sometimes be seen - especially when the exposure isn't constant and the level is rather low. But the process can take years and is influenced by many factors. If sleep quality is good and blood pressure & cortisol levels are ok, one might consider "waiting it out"... if secondary effects increase, additional stress sources (job) pop up or relationship trouble starts, moving might be the smartest option. Another way would be to do a survey in the neighborhood and if other people are affected, collecting some money and hiring a acoustician with a proven track record of solving LFN cases to find the source. Once the source is identified, searching for a solution would be the next step. Sometimes simple things like swapping a fan in an air chiller can make a huge difference.

Wait. I need to answer your question properly on a physiological level as well: The problem is that LFN signals that reach the inner ear get sent to the brain on 3 separate channels, with a signal from the otolith organs going to the vestibular nuclei and finally also to areas that regulate autonomic functions. As it seems, these effects show a much lower ability to adapt to "noise" in the broadest sense.

Do you have any citations to support this claim?..

Most of what I am writing is pretty basic otoneurological knowledge. Researchers like Bohne, Harding, Dallos, Salt, Lichtenhan, Hudspeth, Moller, Kugler, Drexel et al. have published extensively on this issue. Some links to peer-revieved literature are listed in my Stackexchange post.

In NYC the screeching of the subway trains at the station is easily loud enough to be physically painful to my ears. Especially in underground local stations where you have a local train arriving + express trains rolling past. That can be 90-100 decibels (equivalent to a jet engine taking off 300m away).

Restaurants here are regularly 70-90 decibels. Equivalent to the noise of a blender next to you. Everything in the restaurant reflects sound and its not unusual to be sitting about 2 feet from the person at the table next to you.

I’m genuinely worried for my long-term hearing living here. Noise-cancelling headphones and even ear plugs are a must.

What decibel meter are you using to get those readings? Seems insane that the loudest restaurant is equivalent to a jet engine taking off.

I am in a restaurant now, a midsize place doing brunch, and my Apple Watch is recording 80 decibels. It would be louder if I were at a table but I’m off to the side at the bar.

I enjoyed this article, albeit it’s from 2012: “Working or Playing Indoors, New Yorkers Face an Unabated Roar” (https://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/20/nyregion/in-new-york-city...)

For more reading, there are articles for various cities linked at the bottom of this NIH page:


small, busy restaurants without sound deadening can be really loud, but I doubt it's actually 90dB. that's like the opening band at a small music venue.

It’s a real phenomenon. Most restaurants aren’t quite that high but there are a surprisingly large amount that are.

I’m the cofounder of an app that crowd sources noise levels at bars and restaurants. You may find it useful.

It’s called SoundPrint.

Man made noise is certainly a nuisance, but I think “nature” is not always as quiet as we like to think.

A few years ago I spent a week out in the middle of the Costa Rican jungle — miles from anyone. One thing that stuck with me was how loud the jungle was, especially at night. The bugs would start buzzing around dusk, the frogs would add to the chorus around midnight with loud croaking, and then in the wee hours of the morning we’d be treated to the piercing shrieks of monkeys.

Not exactly an ideal soundscape for a peaceful night’s sleep or quiet reflection.

The number of appliances that intentionally make noise and cannot be configured to stop making noise irks me.

I never want microwaves, dishwashers, laundry machines, etc. to make any noise. Even worse is how many of them continue making noise until you unload them. I'd like to one day be able to run a load of laundry or dishes overnight without being constantly woken up.

There's a special place in hell reserved for the people responsible for all of the beeping and LEDs in the modern home. An eternity of never ending beeps and blinking lights.

Find the speaker/chirper/noisemaker and disable it, using wirecutters if necessary. Black tape works great on LEDs.

I have a roll of black stickers that get stuck on everything. Latest offender though is a power board that has an LED near the USB ports. I've covered where it's supposed to shine through, but its bright enough that it shines through the USB ports as well. Even if something is plugged in to them!

Is it generally safe to assume that cutting a noisemaker (or LED?) off wont break the rest of the product?

I find that on products that are mostly digital removing LEDs and speakers shouldn't cause an issue. However, some analog electronics may be designed with the LED as a current path. If this is the case perhaps you can replace it with a non light-emitting diode with similar Vf

If you can open it enough to cut the led, why not just wrap the led in tape while you've got it open? That should cut down on the light leakage through the usb ports.

Put a small square of tin foil to cover the LED, and tape over it. It's non-invasive and I haven't found any LED that shine through tin foils.

You should always be able to replace them with an appropriate resistor.

Black tape also works to muffle buzzers, just cover the holes with tape and it gets much quieter.

Not always possible.

I own a couple of devices I would like to do that to, but I can't access the electronics without cutting the entire plastic casing.

I own a washing machine that particularly annoys me.

It beeps at the end of the wash, as if expecting you to unload it.

It also has a heat sensor tied to the door lock, where it won't let you unlock the door if it's too hot. It also takes 5-10 minutes after a wash to reach a level where it'll let you open the door.

We recently bought a new dishwasher that's nearly silent during operation, and will automatically open the door and power down at the end of the cycle (no notification beeps).

It didn't cost us any extra, but I would've paid double for that now that I've had it for six months. I can start it immediately before going to bed and when I wake up it's finished.

You can't just post a comment like that without mentioning what model/make the dishwasher is.

It's an Electrolux ESF5545LIX, the brand name for the tech is "AirDry" if that's easier to search for maybe.

My parent's have a Bosch that is so quiet you can talk over it without raising your voice at all. The only real indication that it's running is the timer indicating how many minutes remaining it projects onto the floor. No LEDs, no beeps, boops or gurgles.

Miele does this

Wait, so it beeps at you for attention and then denies you access? That's definitely a case of asshole design.

Many newer washers and dryers can be configured not to make a noise at the end of the cycle. (Of course they will make some noise when running, but I assume that's not what you're talking about.)

That would be perfect.. still unfortunate for renters stuck around less configurable appliance models

How is being a renter relevant? If the appliance has a beep that can be turned off, the renter can turn it off as easily as the owner. Just find the user manual for the appliance online.

"If the appliance has a beep that can be turned off"

If it doesn't, you're out of luck

Try living in a place (e.g., the U.S.) where being a renter carries the assumption[1] with being in the bottom-third economic bracket with the property owners thereby opting to provision units with the cheapest-available accoutrement and equipment (often the most poorly-designed).

Poor product design often entails poor user experience like environmental pollution of light and sound.

[1] --- Exclude high-income and nominal high-cost metropolises like New York or Bay Area.

find the speaker and remove it...

I think it's time we start to think seriously about noise pollution and regulation. Most countries have laws around noise, but policing typically isn't helpful. You tend to have a 'self-mediation first', 'police warnings second' and 'court cases third', policy, which I think is mostly fine. But if authorities don't take it seriously, it usually gets stuck in the first phase and never progresses beyond neighbour-disputes. Frequent-noise makers aren't typically the most reasonable bunch to speak to.

I think that when there's regulation, the problem is that sometimes filing a complaint may take too much time, and same for the police to check anything. It should be automated.

I submitted this to Hacker News some months ago, and seems relevant here...

Tell HN: Steal idea for product to automate reporting of barking dogs complaints https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19436807

(although I was thinking of dog barking when I wrote it, it's actually applicable for any kind of noise pollution)

If your acoustic environment is driving you nuts, you may want to speak to an audiologist and/or ENT. There is a condition called hyperacusis[1] worth asking about.

If everyday noise is debilitating or anxiety-inducing for and it doesn't seem like others are affected to the degree you are, it wouldn't hurt to speak to a hearing specialist. The causes and treatments of this (spectrum?) condition aren't entirely agreed upon, but tinnitus retraining therapy or other adaptation techniques might improve your life.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hyperacusis

Thank you very much for pointing that out!

I'm not sure why it never occurred to me that mine could be a medical condition, and all this time I have been quietly hating myself for being extremely intolerant of others while the condition gets worse.

Whoever decided to make cars beep when you lock or unlock them did humanity a disservice in my view. I don't think the small benefit of helping the driver locate their vehicle outweighs the shear number of times that has woken people up.

I don't usually find the lock beeping to be noticeable, certainly not louder than people's cars starting or that one asshole with the "loud and proud" engine that likes to idle it for heat in the morning.

What gets me are the people that have car alarms. I've never seen one do anything useful and people still get them. One in particular goes off weekly to the point I'm amazed it hasn't gone off due to someone putting a crowbar through the windshield. I just can't imagine having one of these go off weekly and 1) not disable it after the third time 2) not have "this must drive everyone bonkers" come across my mind.

Car alarms come standard in most cars, and you generally can't disable them (that's the point). Even my 20 year old VW has a car alarm, and there's no simple way to disable it, short of never locking my car door or disconnecting the horns (which are also activated by pressing on the steering wheel). I wish I could disable it, because this specific model has faulty door-open sensors that sometimes detect an open door when it's shut, triggering the alarm.

My immediate thought is: find the speaker and cut the damned wire. Is it protected deep inside the car or something?

It's the horn. If you cut the cord, you can't honk anymore.

Not always, and I was imagining one that wasn't, but you're right: that's the common case. Which is rather frustrating.

Who has a car without an alarm? Almost everything manufactured in at least the past 2 decades has one installed from the factory, at least in the US.

Not my 2005 Jeep Wrangler, and I don’t recall my 2012 Civic having one, but I didn’t have it very long so that may be a flawed recollection.

The Civic doesn't have an alarm and does not beep when you lock it. German cars and appliances do. Like our coffee filter. We make "achtung! alarm!" jokes about it all the time.

Is this an American thing?

In Europe I never ever hear cars beep when locked/unlocked, just the mechanical sound of the central locking and flashing the hazard lights once when unlocked, double when locked successful and tripple when lock failed(door not closed properly).

Having your car make a loud sound for lock/unlock just creates more noise in the neighborhood.

Most cars only beep on lock. Some only do it with a double-press on the button, the first being a silent lock. My (older) Jeep has no beep, you only hear the mechanical sounds, which I quite prefer.

Maybe. But it’s also slightly more nuanced. Honda for example works like this. One press of the remote, locks all the doors. The second press will beep the horn if all the doors are successfully locked. If you left one of the doors open, the horn won’t beep on the second press. So it’s a away of getting confirmation that all doors are closed and locked. It seems useful, but when my neighbor comes home in the middle of the night and locks her car and the horn wakes up my kid who starts crying, it seems a lot less useful.

What gets me are the number of people who will put their keys in their pocket and just beat the ever loving hell out of the "lock" button as they walk away. So it's all "beep," "beep beep," "beep beep beep beep beep beep beep beep" until they finally get out of range.

I'm sure those are the same people who, if or when they are pedestrians, stand at the corner and repeatedly slam the crosswalk request button.

Seems like a much better UX would be for the remote to ding or vibrate instead of having the car make a sound. But then that would cost a few more dollars I suppose.

Haha this is some kind of ocd thing

I bought a second hand Ford Transit that beeps when locked and I thought it must indicate some failure mode! I still struggle to comprehend that someone would design it like that.

I simply removed the horn fuse. Which is a horrid solution because the horn is legally required to function in NZ (so I might not be insured).

I guess I could wire the horn to the +12V bus that's only live when the vehicle is running, but that takes extra work.

Many years ago, a my landlord’s son had a car alarm that talked. When he locked the car, it would say “System armed”. (The first time I heard that, I nearly freaked out.) And when unlocked, it would say “Alarm deactivated”. Whoever invented this, may have thought it really cool at the time. Fortunately, I never found out what it would say if the alarm went off.

I had use of a Nissan Leaf for three months summer before last. Due to the lack of engine noise, it beeped loudly when in reverse as a safety feature for anyone who might be standing nearby. At 5am when I'd leave for work, I knew it had to be annoying the neighbors. I was able to replace it with a non electric car by the end of the summer but still feel guilty about the beeping the neighbors had been treated to for those three months.

The whole idea of a private car is to be as convenient as possible for the owner without any regard for others. Considering how deadly they are to pedestrians and how damaging they are to the environment, noise polution due to alarms is just a drop in the ocean.

I love you humor... this sort of logic could be expanded to basically everything mankind invented since we climbed down from the trees ;-) ...Shoes! Consider how deadly the are to ants! ... Soap! Consider how deadly it is to microbes! ... Nah, seriously: It's a matter of design. Cars don't need to harm the environment and they don't need to be noisy or overly dangerous. The problem is inconsiderate pea-brained idiots that don't think of others - and noise regulations that lag behind what's known in the scientific community by decades.

Most cars have the ability to disable the beep/honk when locking. I was really stoked when I found this feature in my manual. Too bad it's not the default and most people probably won't know it's possible.

My apartment is bordered by around 100 housing units, and a large number of car parking spaces. Very few of the cars beep anymore, but a large number honk their horns whenever (loosely) anyone gets in or out of the vehicle.

To those of us with especially poorly-placed apartments, this gratuitous honking throughout the early morning, day, and night is always annoying, often jolting, and sometimes awakening.

I understand that this can be disabled by the user, if they realize it's a noise pollution problem, and know that they can disable theirs, and how.

One thing I don't understand is why the automakers would ever think this was a good idea.

Another thing I don't understand is why safety regulatory authorities would permit car horns (i.e., urgent emergency signaling devices) to be misused in this new manner.

My Tesla honks when it locks and I'd prefer it did not. But if it were silent, I wouldn't know when it fails to lock because someone didn't fully close their door. I wish they'd do a Subaru beep instead. Or just send me a push notification on my phone. Having it honk in my garage every time I walk away gets a bit irritating.

Or just make the remote chirp or vibrate would be even better.

That's the default on VWs as well. You can have that changed so it flashes the lights instead. I wonder if Tesla's have that option?

My car (most cars?) just flashes all the turn signals. One long flash on lock, two short ones on unlock.

My last car (a W177 Mercedes A Class) had an option to disable the acoustic locking verification sound in the infotainment system. I turned it off straight away.

The beep is unnecessary since the lights also flash when locking/unlocking.

No beep is my preference as well, except as a workaround to another poor design choice: key fobs with a single button for both lock and unlock. My car has this, and it's extremely annoying without a beep. Often difficult to tell whether it registered a lock, especially in bright sun when it's easier to miss the signal lights flashing.

You're woken up easily. Makes me wonder if my Subaru with loud pipes wakes people up.

It does. As a courtesy to my neighbours with my loud subaru I cut the engine and roll down the street when I come home late at night.

Wow that’s very kind. I wish I had neighbors like you!

You're talking to someone using text on the internet and you somehow know a sound of some kind with no information on loudness or distance can claim that it wakes someone "easily".

I live across the street from a firehouse in Manhattan. They are noisy and politically untouchable so calling 311 doesn't help.

They test these devices to get through doors that are basically chainsaws every day at random times.

I once asked a fireman why they test them daily. He said, "It would be a shame to find out it didn't work when we got there."

I asked innocently, "When you test it, you know it works, but as soon as you stop it, you don't know if it works any more. That test might have been its last working. How do you know daily is the right amount?"

He said, "It would be a shame to find out it didn't work when we got there."

I took away that there was no reason for daily. They just did it that way.

If anyone out there knows a proper testing frequency for chainsaws, I'd love to find out, especially if it's well documented and less often than daily.

My impression is that there isn't much to do in a firehouse when there is no fire.

So "testing the chainsaw again" might end up being done a lot. Since it's a thing you can do.

I vaguely recall reading a few articles about how firehouses are less necessary as we have less fires today, but we struggle to reduce their numbers as they are heavily unionized. This is the narrative I at least have floating in my mind.


This is a UK perspective but IMO much of the reduction in fires has been because of the work done by the Fire Brigade. Education, information campaigns, pushing for reforms, calls to action etc. Any reduction in numbers – and the manner in which it happens (in case it has a multiplying effect of disuasing new recruits when they're actually needed) – should be done very, very carefully.

Loudly beeping lifts in stations, like a fire alarm, while no moving parts whatsover are exposed inside or outside.

The beeping of cars when the doors are open.

The short blaring of car alarms, when they are closed remotely via key fob, just to make sure they work!

The beeping of bus and train doors when they are closing.

The banging hissing vents of overpressure in the pneumatic tanks of busses and trucks.

The humming and hissing of HVAC for the refrigeration of supermarkets.

The blaring of music in supermarkets (special case: Kylie Minogue with 'Can't Get You Out Of My Head' which somehow seems to be in the eternal Top 20ies of supermarket music. La la la, lall lall, la la la lall lall....), the penetrant marketing displays activating from some endless loop when anything comes near them.

The stupid video walls in stations, blaring uninteresting shortnews, weather, and adverstisements while almost everybody is sunken into their smartphones. Talk about wasted effort!

The same goes for so called information displays in Trains, Subways, Metros, Buses installed every 2nd to 3rd row of seats.

I could, and sometimes do counter that with something playing over my earphones, but i don't like to, because it messes with my situational awareness.

Oh man, good to know I'm not alone

I have 3M PELTOR X5A Ear Muffs. I use them all the time, from getting a snooze while my car charges, to working in louder than necessary cafes, to getting decent if slightly uncomfortable sleep in a hotel. They're $31 delivered from Amazon. It amused the hell out of me that I had to click through an agreement saying I was a profession. I am a professional.

Since these are 31db ear muffs, they're heavier than something with less protection. These are over the head model and I may get the X5B behind the neck model. Harder to get though. Not on Amazon.

I tried noise cancelling headphones. When they work, they're great. But anything unusual and I'd get feedback. Dumb ear muffs work all the time plus they're super ugly and so people leave you alone.

I don't understand why noise cancelling doesn't recognize it's in feedback.

> to working in louder than necessary cafes

The loudness of cafes is necessary, at least to the business owner. Across the world, even in countries where cafes used to be peaceful places for reading and long conversations, owners have increasingly preferred to blast loud music and remove sound-dampening. The constant din has a subconscious effect on customers, leading them to leave the establishment after they finish their drink. So, they quickly free up the table for the next customers. People occupying a table for hours on just one or two purchases is one of cafe owners’ most frequent complaints.

I can sympathize with your sensitivity to noise – I pack earplugs for working in cafes – but if you are wearing blatant ear muffs you may well be pissing the proprietor off.

Sufficient but not necessary (I do understand that running a profitable food establishment is extremely difficult).

Establishments also do the following to encourage turnover:

- Buy uncomfortable tables/chairs

- Set higher prices for sitting down at a table vs standing at the bar (or eating in vs takeaway)

- Not bring you the dessert menu, hoping you'll get up and leave

Loud music is cheap, easy and proven, so I can see why it's popular

A local industrial supply house like Grainger should have a range of Peltor products available in-store, so you'll get to try them on first. Look for any general industrial supply or specifically safety distributor in the warehouse-and-factories part of town, they're almost always happy to sell you one unit. Otherwise these kinds of things can be hard to find.

Otherwise McMaster-Carr is a mail/online-order industrial supply house, their online ordering is just a bit old-fashioned and they do more 'white-box' than name brand.

I've used McMaster but they don't carry the Peltor. However, Grainger does carry 3M Peltor and carries the X5B behind the ear model. It's $47.45 at Grainger and the X5A is $30.97 from Amazon delivered. Strange that it's not more available and less expensive.

An alternative is the Peltor Optime 105 Behind-the-Head Earmuff which is 28 dB (vs 31 dB) and readily available at $23.99 from Amazon delivered. It also weighs slightly less, 11.4 oz vs 12.6 oz.

zoro.com has the X5B for $40.83.

Noise isolating ear tips or IEMs for listening to audio are another great option if you want to maybe sacrifice a little bit of comfort for wonderful audio reproduction and probably portability/convenience.

Even better are noise isolating earbuds INSIDE of 3M Peltor 31 decibel earmuffs.

I have worn my earPods, wire and all, inside my X5As. If I'm watching a webinar or something on my laptop, it gives great isolated sound.

I'm reluctant to go this route because it also blocks out important sounds like alarms or knocks on the door in case of an emergency.

the worst are

* bells from catholic churches (when they play early Sunday morning they just invite you to blaspheme)

* muezzin shouting from the mosque (aggravated from the fact that they talk Arabic, were in many countries, e.g. Turkey, nobody talks arabic, so nobody understand!)

and the worst of the worst is that in both cases sound comes from tapes (no live at all, and very bad taped).

Any national new legislation must face this issue: as to say it will be very hard deal with, without touching religions' susceptibility.

And if you live in India, you have to deal with both of those as well as loud religious music from the local Hindu temples.

My parents live a half kilometer from the nearest temple and during festival seasons (which is 1/4 the year), they are woken up at 5am by loud religious music played at the temple at 100+ dB.

And this isn't some ancient religious hymn, it's religious lyrics set to pop music / bollywood tunes mixed by some 2nd tier recording artist.

> bells from catholic churches

The huge bronze bells in Germany are another thing entirely. They sound wonderful (dare I say heavenly?).

But the cheap electric klaxons used in American churches are horrible.

There's nothing wonderful about them when you live half a km/mi from them and they go off at 9AM, don't stop for 10-15 minutes and you really wanted to sleep.

I'm sure they put them up after you moved to that location, correct?

Honestly, It's hard to fault someone for failing to notice something that happens irregularly like that. Unless you're willing to camp out in the front yard of a prospective home 24x7 for a week, you're likely to miss this.

The onus is on the noisemaker to make less noise, not everyone else to avoid the area. If they didn't move there, someone else with less money would have.

That's surely a sign.

Where the hell do you live where those two are a common thing? In the US, the vast majority of places have noise pollution laws where neither would be allowed.

Plenty of places in Europe have catholic churches and mosques/less formal places of worship, such as France, Italy and Spain. France has thousands of mosques

yes, exactly, plus Turkey (a lot), Ethiopia (crazy, really a lot, too!), Montenegro, India (as already stated)

From the subtitle:

> The tech industry is producing a rising din. Our bodies can’t adapt.

This is a great article, but did I miss something or is this subtitle more or less irrelevant? The only source of noise mentioned related to the tech industry is the lead-in story's data center cooling system, and 95% of the article has nothing to do with it.

This is interesting to me in and of itself: it's another unfortunate example of The Atlantic's long-established internal struggle between quality journalism and clickbait, but it's also another fascinating data point for how the term "tech industry" has become a universal-purpose scapegoat for the kinds of simpletons looking for simple, singular explanations for all of the world's ills.

In last few months I've travelled to the US a few times. In all 3 hotels I've stayed in, I've had to switch rooms (in one hotel even 3 times in the course of a week) due to low frequency noise of ACs of neighbouring rooms and/or general ventilation system. Ear plugs simply don't cut it anymore these days.

The US is generally pretty noisy. House walls are thin and there is a lot of AC and heating noise. Whenever I come back to Germany I notice how quiet the houses are due to brick walls.

The church bells create a very regular cacophany from seemingly every direction however, at least here in Switzerland (can't speak for Germany). This seems to be much less common in the US.

The church in the small Swiss town I lived in rang its bell every 15 minutes, even in the middle of night. Maybe the locals find it comforting. It kept me up.

Church bells are the same in Germany. Church bells don't bother me but I hate white noise like heating or AC. Americans on the other hand often seem to find white noise soothing. Maybe because they grew up with it.

I guess it depends, when I returned home from Cologne, I noticed how quite it is. No tram sounds, no cars sounds, no drunken crowds sounds, nobody is taking a piss in the dark corner etc.

I have that in the UK, so it's not just a US problem. IME, unless you pay for an expensive/specific room, hotels seem to push you towards the horrible rooms first, mostly the noisey ones - front facing near traffic, rear rooms next to ducts/aircon systems, etc. I suffer with insomnia, so the first hint of noise and I'm off to complain/change room!

> IME, unless you pay for an expensive/specific room, hotels seem to push you towards the horrible rooms first, mostly the noisey ones

So a weird tip a lot of people don't know is you get different rooms depending on how you book (this is also true for seats on airplanes). If you use Expedia or something similar you are buying from a different pool of rooms (even if the price is the same). So if you book directly with the hotel/airline you will likely get a better room/seat.

There isn’t a different pool of rooms (at least not in a standard chain hotel with 80 to 150 rooms), you’re just a higher value guest since people coming from travel agents offer less net income due to having to pay commissions. Also, rewards members with status get priority, because they’re spending more year round.

Thank you for the correction. My limited understanding is it's actually a mixture of both (and will vary on a case by case basis), but I admit I'm not an expert.

Hah. Last time I stayed in Chicago at The Palmer House, they just left "complimentary" earplugs on the nightstand.

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