Ideas and Products for Reducing Noise

Tips and techniques for reducing noise in your daily life, from simple but clever ideas to specialized products you might not have heard of.

Below you'll find assorted ideas and products for dealing with various kinds of everyday noise. Each one addresses a specific noise problem, ranging from dangerous decibel levels to tiny but irritating repetitive noises. If you have a noise problem from one of these sources, you might be able to use one of these noise control products or tips to specifically target and eliminate your problem, or at least help in reducing the noise to a more tolerable level. Don't hesitate to use every tool at your disposal for reducing noise, reducing stress, and regaining peace in your life.

On this page:

Listening to Music or TV
Other People's Electronics
Pets (Yours and Theirs)
Noisy Crowds
Noise in Cars or on Motorcycles
Protecting Your Vehicle
Around the House
Noise from Family Members or Roommates
Getting to Sleep
Waking Up
All-purpose Instant Quiet
Calm Your Spirit

Listening to Music or TV

When you listen to music from an iPod or similar device through headphones, earbuds, or earphones, it's easy to play it too loudly, for too long, and damage your hearing, possibly permanently. Here are some devices that will reduce that risk:
  • iPod volume limiter. Recent iPod models have a maximum volume limit feature built in. Check the website of your portable digital player's manufacturer to see what hardware or software options are available. Or you can use a volume limit cable that restricts the volume to a fixed percentage of the maximum capability.
    Kidz Gear Headphones

  • Headphones or earphones that set an upper limit on the maximum volume, such as the Kidz Gear Headphones or Etymotic's ETY•Kids Safe-listening Earphones.

  • Noise-reducing or noise-cancelling headphones to cancel out background noise. With less competing sound, your natural comfortable listening level will be at a lower volume.

  • Noise-isolating earphones to block out external sound, allowing you to hear high-fidelity music at a safe and pleasing volume.

If you're annoyed by television commercials that suddenly blare out at high volume, there are gadgets that can help. A TV volume limiter will regulate the TV volume or prevent it from exceeding the maximum level that you set.

Other People's Electronics

  • Universal TV on/off remote, such as the TV-B-Gone. This gizmo can turn off almost any television set, if you are within sight and range of it. It won't work on your neighbor's TV through the apartment wall, but it will work in public places such as laundromats, bars, and airports. It goes without saying that before using it, it is courteous to make sure no one around you wants to watch the TV!
  • Sennheiser RS120 wireless RF headphones

  • TV headset, such as Sennheiser's extraordinarily popular wireless RF headphones or the TV Ears wireless headset system. If you have a family member or next-door neighbor who is a bit hard of hearing and likes to listen to the TV at booming volumes, a headset lets the person listen privately at the volume needed while not bothering anyone else. Give the TV watcher a gift of electronics, and give yourself the gift of peace.

  • Cell phone jammer. Yes, you can buy a cell phone jammer (or build one yourself), to stop that annoying person on the bus or in the theater from talking on his or her mobile phone. However, their use is illegal in many countries, including the US, the UK, Canada, and Australia.

Pets (Yours and Theirs)

  • Quiet pet tags. If the incessant jangling of your pet's tags gets on your nerves even a little bit, silent pet tags are for you.

  • Barking dogs. The sound of dogs barking ranks very high on the list of most annoying noises.

Noisy Crowds

There are a number of interesting approaches for reducing noise from crowds, depending on the situation:
Yacker Tracker noise level monitor
  • In a controlled environment such as a classroom, you can use a sound monitor, such as the Yacker Tracker, to give a visual or audible alert signal when the noise reaches certain levels. This reminds the group to soften their voices, and trains them to be aware of acceptable and unacceptable noise levels.

  • To dispel crowds, or deter them from gathering, there are sonic deterrents, the most well-known one being the Mosquito, designed to dispel loitering teens. It emits an irritating high-frequency tone that is inaudible to most people over age 25 (because at this age they have already suffered a degree of hearing loss). A low-tech and more subtle version of this approach is to select and play music of a style known to be distasteful to most members of the group you are trying to repel.

  • How about crowds in a movie theater? Does the sound of popcorn being munched irritate you to the point where it's impossible to enjoy the movie? Here's an idea: Request headphones for the hard of hearing. These assistive listening devices are available for free use at most theaters, and you don't have to be hard of hearing to use them. They can help in reducing the noise you hear from the crowd around you. Check the movie theaters in your location to see which ones publicize listening devices as one of the features they offer.

  • Residents of one neighborhood were continually being annoyed by the noise of spirited crowds as they left the bars and poured into the streets at closing hour. How to reduce the noise? They hit upon an innovative and inexpensive solution: They provided lollipops to the local businesses to hand out to their clientele as they left the bars. And ... it worked!

Noise in Cars or on Motorcycles

Noise reduction ideas for a quieter ride:

Protecting Your Vehicle

Not only are car alarms a perennial annoyance for you and your neighbors, they aren't even effective at reducing car theft! Here are some quieter alternatives:
  • Remote alarms. When a disturbance is detected, rather than blaring a siren, the detector sends a signal to the owner's remote unit or cell phone. This Silent Mode feature is offered by several Viper alarm system models.

  • Mechanical immobilizers. These lock down the steering wheel or brake pedal.
  • Viper car security system

  • Electronic (passive) immobilizers. A signalling device, PIN code, or thumb print is required in order to start the vehicle.

  • Tracking systems. A GPS or triangulation transmitter allows you or the police to pinpoint the vehicle's location.

  • Anti-carjacking system. For a vehicle that is already in operation, an event such as a door being opened requires re-authentication by the driver; otherwise the vehicle will stop after a short distance. An example is the Clifford BlackJax 5 Anti-Carjacking and Vehicle Self Recovery System (usually installed as an option at the time a new vehicle is purchased, but also available as an aftermarket system).

Around the House

Simple solutions for the myriad little noises that you hear around the house. You may "get used to" them, but wouldn't life be just a little nicer if you didn't have to hear those noises on a daily basis?
  • Rugs. Rugs work miraculously in reducing noise of many kinds, from footsteps to furniture being dragged around.
  • Chair Leg Floor Protector Pads (Furniture Socks)

  • Soft chair gliders. These are durable cushioned protectors that fit on the feet of chairs or other furniture, so that they can be moved soundlessly across bare floors. They are also wonderful for classrooms and other group facilities, greatly reducing the noise when chairs and tables need to be rearranged.

  • Cork. Do your cupboard doors slam shut with a rude bang? Glue thin slices of cork on the inside edges of the cupboard doors to cushion the blow, reducing the noise.

  • Soft close cabinet hardware. For an even quieter solution to slamming kitchen doors and drawers, install soft-closing hinges or dampers and drawer slides.

  • Quiet toilet seats. Eliminate toilet seat slam with a soft-closing toilet seat, which has slow-action hinges. Or get a similar quieting effect with a cushioned plastic seat.

  • Anti-vibration pads for washers and dryers. If your appliances shake and "walk," Sorbothane pads will quiet the thumping and keep the machines in place.
  • DuPont Teflon Multi-use Lubricant

  • Lubricant. Use it for reducing noise from squeaky hinges anywhere in the house. WD-40 is the most renowned squeak treatment, but a Teflon-based lubricant is more effective and longer-lasting.

  • Squeak eliminators, such as the Squeeeeek No More kit. These are designed for reducing the noise of squeaky floors.

  • Quiet dishes. Use dishes made of wood or plastic, for less clatter!

  • Sink mat. This seemingly trivial addition to your sink will reduce the noise from dishes.

  • Low-noise packing tape. If it's moving time, your ears will thank you if you use a packing tape that's specially designed to produce less noise. Quiet packing tape is also useful for sealing packages to be shipped.

Noise from Family Members or Roommates

  • Is there a musician in the house?
    Yamaha silent electric acoustic guitar
    • Quite a few instruments can be played or practiced electronically and heard through headphones. These include not only the usual keyboard, electric guitar, and bass, but also orchestral stringed instruments, brass, and drums. These allow a musician to play at full strength while maintaining the volume at a comfortable level, and also avoid disturbing others with the sound.
    • For a group of musicians playing together, a JamHub Silent Rehearsal Studio system is an ideal solution. It allows each musician to hear a customized mix through headphones, while the band remains silent to anyone else nearby.
    • WhisperRoom offers a sound isolation practice booth, an enclosure designed specifically to confine the sound so a musician can practice inside. You can also construct one yourself.

  • What do you do when a baby is crying? After making doubly certain that all of the baby's needs are being met, if he or she is still crying inconsolably, try white noise for a calming effect. Some white noise products are specially designed to soothe crying infants. Other tried and true techniques include rhythmic motion, comfort swaddling, and, of course, lots of secure and loving body contact.

  • Do you share a bed or bedroom with a snorer? Trying to sleep with a snorer can be a truly frustrating experience. If ear plugs and white noise aren't enough, try addressing the root of the problem, and help the snorer stop snoring. While long-term lifestyle changes are most effective, there are other measures that work well for some snorers, such as sleep position techniques, specially designed pillows,nasal strips, oral appliances, and minor surgery. A sleep apnea test can help you determine whether the snoring is caused by sleep apnea, a breathing disorder for which your doctor can prescribe effective treatment.

Getting to Sleep

Standard noise protection ear plugs are the first line of defense against noise when you're trying to sleep. If ear plugs aren't enough to block out the noise, it's often helpful to mask the unwanted sounds with white noise, nature sounds, or music. Not only do these cover over unpleasant sounds that would snag your attention and keep you awake; peaceful and predictable sound has a calming effect of its own and is one of the most effective ways to fall asleep naturally.
  • Sound machines
    let you choose nature sounds or relaxing music, and some have timers, faders, and other controls designed for bedtime use.

  • To avoid disturbing your bedmate, you can use sleep headphones or a pillow speaker.

  • If you have a partner who snores, check the snoring solutions mentioned in the section above.

Besides these approaches, which address noise problems in particular, don't forget general sleeping aids, such as sleep masks or blackout curtains for blocking out light; melatonin pills or drops, containing the body's natural sleep hormone; and sleep-inducing teas, herbal supplements, or drugs as a temporary measure if recommended by your physician. For best sleep hygiene, eliminate caffeine after morning hours.

Waking Up

Is the loud, jarring noise of a screaming alarm or blaring radio really the first thing you want to experience as you start your day? As a gentler alternative to an alarm clock, here are some wake-up clocks to consider:
  • Nature sounds wake-up clock, such as the Sound Oasis Sleep Sound Therapy System, which awakens you with the natural soundscape of your choice.

  • Sunrise clock (dawn simulator), which gradually lightens the room so that you wake up naturally.

  • Aromatherapy clock, so you can wake up to the smell of coffee or another scent, wafted on cue.

  • A combination wake-up clock, such as the Peaceful Progression, which uses a gradual succession of light, scent, and sounds.

  • Vibrating wake-up clock, such as the travelTim vibrating portable travel alarm. Depending on the model, the vibrating unit might be clipped to your pillow, placed under your mattress, or worn on your wrist. (Note: The vibration mode of your cell phone or smartphone might work just as well!)

  • Vibrating watch, such as the VibraLITE series, which use vibrations to alert you at the times you set. There is also the innovative Mutewatch from Sweden, with a touchscreen interface, which automatically adjusts the strength of the vibration according to your level of activity.

  • Sleep phase watch, such as the Sleeptracker. This instrument monitors your sleep phases by tracking your body movements, and awakens you with a vibration when you are in a shallow sleep phase (within the time window that you set).

  • Alarm clock with a bed shaker unit, such as Sound Clarity's Global 360 clock. In addition to a loud alarm (which can be set to Off), it sends strong pulse vibrations to the attached bed shaker disc.

Clocks which use light, vibration, or scent to wake you are an especially good idea if you go to sleep using ear plugs or headphones, as these might keep you from hearing the sound of an alarm clock.

All-purpose Instant Quiet

With a WhisperRoom sound isolation enclosure, you can enter your own haven of instant quiet and privacy any time you need it.

Calm Your Spirit

Pause for a moment; rest your mind: "... in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul."

Morning boardwalk visitor in ocean contemplation

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