Noise pollution

Man made problem with solutions

I walk around the perfectly located home with a decibel meter app downloaded to my phone. I scoped the entire perimeter watching the numbers that measure sound bounce up and down. The neighbors probably think I have a cell phone signal issue.

I have been home hunting for months in a million dollar city, and thought I knew all the variables that mattered in search of semi-perfection. But as I looked in more urban areas, I was surprised by a common flaw: noise pollution.

According to the EPA, noise pollution is simply put as sound that is unwanted or disturbing.  There is some data on the persistence and pervasiveness of noise pollution on our health. The WHO reports stress related illnesses, difficulty in concentration, and impacts on restorative sleep. According to the CDC, sounds above 70 decibels over a prolonged time can lead to hearing loss.

When looking at homes that have exposures to noise pollution, there are a few initial solutions to consider:

Barrier method

Barriers around the outside of your home will help with sound perception, since sounds conduct slower through solids than air.

Some examples include:

  • Acoustic fence
  • Masonry wall
  • Modular wall
  • Thick wooden fences

And there is also vegetation:

  • Evergreen hedges
  • Junipers with thick branches
  • Plants and trees that sway with the wind create an offsetting to the noise

Because sound can “seep” through a barrier, vegetation is less effective than a masonry wall. But vegetation can help trick the mind’s experience of sound, because there is an out-of-sight phenomenon that works here.

Out of sight, Out of ear

Relative placement to the noise source is important. If the noise source is out of sight, then our brains can be tricked on the perception of noise, even if the decibels don’t change that much.

Also, if the backyard area can be sunken in more, that will deflect from traffic noise. Alternatively, if the house is situated on a raised platform or a hill, then the sound will be abated as well.

Drown it out

I never appreciated a fountain more than when thinking about combating noise pollution. Some pleasant distractors of noise pollution:

  • Water features (stream, fountain, pond with waterfall)
  • White noise or other sounds with camouflaged speakers
  • Wind chimes

Erecting barriers, keeping out of sight, and drowning out noise can combat unwanted sound. There are some other more technical solutions to sound, including mass loaded vinyl.  

One of the neighbors spots me coming around the front.

“Are you looking for something?” she asks. I put my phone in my pocket.

“No, just listening.”

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