Your home is your castle, and it should be a quiet castle. You can take charge of your environment—and protect your hearing—by learning these tips to control the noise level around you.
YOUR DELICATE EARS
Loud noises can damage fragile hairlike structures in the inner ear, which pick up and transmit sound to the brain. The longer the exposure to noise and the louder it is, the more damage will be done to these cells. Here are ways to protect your hearing:
Keep the volume of your radio and TV turned as low as possible. Your hair dryer could also cause hearing damage. Keep it on the middle setting, or shop for a low—noise model.
Cover your ears when ambulances go by or when the subway train approaches.
When moving, choose a quiet neighborhood. People who live near a source of loud noise—such as an airport—may believe they are used to it, but they are likely to be tense and to have rapid heart rates. Such stress leads to headaches and irritability.
Avoid buying children’s toys that make loud or irritating noises. If you can‘t tolerate the sound of the toy next to your own ear for 20 seconds, don‘t buy it.
THE SOUND OF MUSIC
Children taking up an instrument should be given a place to practice so that they can play without disturbing the rest of the family.
When listening to a portable headset, keep the volume low. If others can hear the music, it could cause you damage.
Keep the volume on your car stereo low enough for conversations to be carried on comfortably.
Wear earplugs to concerts. If you feel odd doing so, remember that the musicians themselves often wear earplugs.
Never sit near the speakers at a concert. Don‘t assume that only rock concerts can cause damage to the ear. Damage has been reported among rap and country fans, and even among members of high school marching bands.
One simple test to measure high—frequency hearing loss is to rub your thumb and forefinger together near your ear. If you can‘t hear the rubbing sound, your hearing may be impaired.
Is Your Hearing Impaired?
The din of modern life takes its toll on the delicate workings of the human ear. To find out whether you should take a hearing test, ask yourself the following questions:
Do people complain that you aren’t listening?
Do people complain that you turn the TV volume too high?
Do you understand men‘s voices better than women‘s?
Do you have trouble hearing birds or the wind in the trees?
Do voices sound blurry—like static?
Do you have to ask people to repeat themselves frequently, even in quiet rooms?
Do you need to turn toward the person speaking or cup your ear to understand what is being said?
Do you find yourself confusing words or making silly mistakes?
Do you sometimes miss hearing common sounds, like the ringing of the phone or doorbell?
If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, know that you can take a simple hearing test without leaving your home. Call 1-800-222-3277 weekdays from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time for a free two—minute test.
NOISE IN THE HOME
Put televisions and speakers on stands. Audio equipment that touches walls or floors will cause sounds to reverberate through your home.
Decorate with curtains, carpets, and overstuffed seating to help absorb or muffle existing sounds.
Hang a suspended ceiling. choose fiberglass panels to help soften the noise level within a room or mineral board panels to stop noise from traveling to the room above.
Choose sound—deadening wall coverings as well. Cloth-covered panels or cork panels will help block or absorb sound and are easy to install. They also make great bulletin boards in a student‘s room or in an office.
Consider installing low—noise toilets. These are carried in most hardware stores and cost slightly more than regular toilets.
Keep noisy kitchen appliances away from walls and cabinets, which can amplify the sound.
When buying appliances and ventilating fans, compare noise ratings. You‘ll probably have to ask for assistance. A salesperson can help you by finding the manufacturer‘s specifications.
Wear earplugs when doing noisy work around the house, such as mowing the lawn or using power tools.
KEEP OUTSIDE NOISE OUT
Most sound enters homes through the windows—open or shut. If your house has a wooden framework, it can also transmit sound. Keep these hints in mind when you remodel your home:
Your first step should be to use caulk and putty to seal gaps around vents and windows—any place where sound can sneak in. More elaborate steps won‘t do much good unless you do this first.
Add whole—house (central) air—conditioning. While a window-mounted air conditioner will let you close windows to block outside noise, central air—conditioning will do the same and is much quieter.
Install storm windows. The best results come from exterior storm windows with heavy glass and good weatherstripping. But don‘t overlook interior storm windows, which are inexpensive and easy to install.
Install solid entrance doors. A good door that fits tightly is surrounded by weather stripping, and has a good storm door with it will block four times as much noise like a hollow door with no storm door.
Put a damper or a flap on air ducts or laundry vents.
Don‘t let your dog stay outside if it barks; your neighbors don‘t like noise pollution, either.
Landscaping for peace and quiet may sound impossible, but they’re actually are ways to use plants and earth to block sounds.
Plants can be used as sound insulation, but they have to be thick. To block unwanted traffic sounds from your house, plant hedges, bushes, and trees on the side toward the road. Hedges should be at least two feet thick.
Earth can also be used if you have space. Create small mounds (berms) between your house and the source of the noise. For further sound absorption, cover the mound with a dense hedge.
A windbreak is useful if your house is downwind from a factory or schoolyard. A dense evergreen or hedge will provide protection as far downwind as 20 times its height. So, a 9—foot—tall hedge can be planted as far as 180 feet from your house and still offer protection from wind-borne noise.
A wall or tight fence covered with dense vines will absorb some sound. An uncovered wall, though, will only make the noise problem worse.