Noise pollution is the scourge of the modern era, especially if you live in the middle of a bustling city. It also manifests itself in many and varied ways. Loud neighbours are one obvious issue, especially late at night, and depending on how responsive your local police department is, they may be more trouble to deal with that they’re worth. But other noise sources involve living next to train tracks, or busy streets; or maybe there’s some loud construction going on in the morning. What happens if you’re a night shift factory worker or healthcare professional? What kinds of solutions to noise pollution are available?
Other than talking to your neighbours or writing a strongly-worded letter to the municipal authorities, the most obvious solution (especially if you’re trying to get some sleep) is to use earplugs. But earplugs don’t help so much if you’re at home during the day trying to get some work done, or maybe trying to watch some TV after a hard day at the office. White noise speakers can drown out almost anything, but that can just add to the ambient volume in your surroundings rather than combating it.
What about fixtures and fittings? Double-glazing your windows can help, though if you haven’t already got double glazing installed then it’s a long, arduous and expensive process to get that done – possibly not something that is necessary to treat an acute problem like construction that will likely be done by the time your windows are upgraded. Besides, double glazing only filters out a certain amount of sound, and for nearby, loud sources like car alarms, it’s practically useless.
Softer furnishings can help; soft surfaces absorb sound waves, while hard surfaces reflect them. Padded carpets can help to reduce noise, while hardwood flooring has the opposite effect. There are also acoustic ceiling materials that can help to absorb sound as well. Sound-blocking curtains that are specifically intended to absorb ambient noise are also a good way to reduce the impact of noise pollution. Sound-blocking doors can also help, though they don’t do you much good if you’re sitting next to the window. Another option is window blinds, which can also muffle some extraneous sounds. But unfortunately, pulling blinds or curtains during the day rather defeats the purpose of windows.
White noise, as mentioned above, is a good way to drown out bothersome sounds – if you don’t mind sitting in an environment consisting entirely of white noise. What’s needed is a way to convert the technology inside noise-cancelling headphones to something that will cover an entire room. And an Austrian industrial designer named Rudolf Stefanich has managed to do just that, which could be the start of a whole range of new sound-cancelling devices specialised for the interior of your house.
Stefanich’s device is called the ‘Sono’ and sticks to the inside of a window, using it as a filter to remove disruptive noises like construction work and car horns. Like noise-cancelling headphones, the device works by analyzing sounds from the environment and then emitting those same sounds phase-shifted by 180° (i.e., cancelling them out) from a speaker. What’s even more interesting is that the device splits the sounds that it monitors into several bands, so that you can filter out particular individual sets of noises. Perhaps you want to get rid of the car alarm blaring away, but you want to let in the sound of birds singing. And the device is aesthetically pleasing and requires very little effort to understand and use. It’s currently up for an award in industrial design at this year’s UK James Dyson Awards, and it’s easy to see why. It’s likely that the device will also be controllable from your smart home hub, as is becoming increasingly standard these days.
If you find yourself raging at inconsiderate neighbours or irritating external noises, don’t despair – there’s a solution available, whether you use traditional methods or new technology to combat the problem. Using ear plugs, double glazing your windows, changing up your furnishings, installing noise-blocking curtains or blinds using white noise, and investing in brand new noise-cancelling speaker technology are all viable options depending on your budget and timeframe.