The Torment of Sound

Sound has tormented me for years but after a head injury in 2006, I have been pushed to the edge of endurance.  Every year I dread the Fourth of July.  A month of my life is ruined by fireworks.  For years I have been searching for a place I could go in July where there are no bombs bursting in air.  I have not found this place. Surely I am entitled to peace within my own home.   

There is a bar in my neighborhood that promotes outdoor live music.  No one is more of a fan of live music than me.  Some of my favorite people play there but the sound travels and reverberates in my home destroying my peace three to four nights a week.  Update 2023: now 6-7 days a week. My windows rattle and I can hear the bass and the drums over the top of anything else that is on in my house.  I never get to enjoy dining on my deck or taking a walk on those nights because the sound affects me in a way that is not healthy.  Even noise cancelling headphones cannot block the sound.  I can stand on my front porch and record every word sung a quarter mile away.  Isn’t this too loud? I invited the owner to come over to my house to experience her live music from my perspective in my house but she turned me down. The owner could care less as she maintains she is within the law with her decibels.

During my days as a caregiver, I lived with my clients in Section 8 apartment living.  Dogs barking, babies crying, tenants arguing and stomping on the floor upstairs and TV’s with surround sound devastated me.  

The Perfect Storm

Night after night of live loud music making my windows rattle and overpowering every other natural sound in my house while anticipating my most dreaded holiday, the fourth of July, It was the perfect storm for losing my sanity.

low angle view of lighting equipment on shelf

Let the Research Begin

In tears at the car dealer waiting on my car repair, I put on my Bose noise cancelling headphones to drown out the TV blaring in the waiting room.  Research began on being tormented by sound.

It turns out I am not alone.  It is a real condition.  People of all kinds are affected by barking dogs, bass and boom boom music, someone chewing or popping gum, a vaccuum cleaner, jingling coins, babies crying.

  • Hyperacusis – everyday sounds seem much louder than they should.
  • Misophonia – sounds that create an emotional response like anger.
  • Phonophobia – sounds that create anxiety.

Noise is unwanted sound, judged as undesirable, irritating, distracting and discordant with one’s expectations or interfering with wanted sounds. 

Western medicine wants to slap a label on the condition and link the exhaustion, withdrawal, helpessness, hopelessness, anger and distress to a psycholgical disorder including anxiety disorder, autism spectrum disorder, major depressive disorder, schizophrenia, and traumatic brain injury.   I have never been served well by these labels, so I moved on to find a real solution.

This is what worked for me

With a little bit of research (more to follow as I have time to delve deeper) these are the resources I used:

Noisy World – Keeping Out the Noise, Letting in the Sound  This is an amazing blog site NoisyWorld.org which outlines the frequencies of the sounds that irritate us most and shares how to block them.  Start here and read ALL the posts.  I used this site and followed ALL of their suggestions. They discuss sleep, study, work, earplugs, earmuffs and noise canceling headphones.

 

My goal was to block the torment of the amplified bass and drums from the bar next door and fireworks.  This required BROWN and PINK Noise (as opposed to WHITE noise generators.) Your specific irritations and the solutions will vary.

https://mynoise.net/

I use this website on my laptop so I can fill my living room and kitchen with a noise blocking mix for my personal noise irritants.  It must be played through a good sound system and when you are as sensitive to bass as I am, you must play the noise cancellation through a powerful subwoofer.  Thankfully I have a Bose Multimedia speaker system.  I hate wearing headphones and cannot tolerate earplugs.  The sound mixing bar on the left is the ideal setting to eliminate bass.

Some sounds and the mixer is free, but for a one-time donation of $5 for a lifetime access, you get everything the site offers which is amazing.  You can be assured I donated much more to this amazing site creator as it is a lifesaver for me.

ATMOSPHERE is an app for your phone or tablet and it is free.  I really love it as I can mix a variety of sounds for various intrusions and can easily save the mix to my favorites.  There are so many pleasant sounds like water and birds that I listen to these when I am not being tormented by someone else’s noise destroying my peace in my own home.

The mix for me that blocks the bass plus does a pretty good job of muting fireworks is a combination of Pink Noise, Brown Noise, Under the Sea 1 and 2, Rain, River and Birds and is shown below.  It is easily saved as a favorite.

When it is time for bed, I use a small Bose portable speaker that easily connects via bluetooth to my phone or to my tablet.  It also has a cord if you want to connect it that way.  I play the appropriate mix from mynoise.net or from the app Atmosphere.  I can also connect my Bose noise cancelling headphones (model Quiet Comfort 15) if it is an especially bad night sort of like what I expect tonight to be!  They are an old model and I hope to upgrade to model 45 soon. Update 2023: bought Bose Noise Cancelling Model 700 which are wireless.

Fireworks

For the sheer terror of bombs bursting in air, the best defense is what is called an Ear Muff.  It is for noise protection/masking and not noise cancelling.  I just bought a pair of Peltor X5A, NRR 31.  I will probably save these for the shooting range as the mix of noise cancellation from the Atmosphere app let me easily fall asleep without the bulky ear muffs.

I am well aware of the effects of fireworks on animals.  You might try any of these techniques and see if they help your dog.

Conclusion

I personally do not believe I should have to endure noise torment that destroys the peace in my own home.  My first choice is to move away from the madness.  My second choice is to find a place of solitude to escape to in July but sadly Fourth of July fireworks have become a month-long torment starting in mid-June.  I don’t want to fill my house with brown and pink noise to drown out the noise outside my house and torments me inside.  I want to enjoy my outdoors without assault from the bar next door.  I am however thankful to have discovered these solutions as they have given immense comfort during my least favorite time of the year.

 

Polly Riddell writing as G. Polly Jordan is a storyteller connecting people and the stories they tell.  

 

I would be happy to share my experience in drowning out NOISE POLLUTION.  You can feel free to email me at Polly@GPollyJordan.com