The most popular stages for sorting when a roommate complains about noise are.
1. Check how noisy you are using a decibel meter or app
2. See if it’s their issue or yours?
3. If it’s on you, try coordinating noisy times, soundproofing your home, and/or using white noise. Earplugs, etc. can help.
4. If your roommate is hypersensitive to sound, they could get treatment.
For all 6 recommendations and the full information on how to make them work, please see the complete article below.
I like to think that I am one of the quietest people on the planet, but there’s no accounting for taste. So, here’s what I try and have researched to be the best solutions for when my roommate complains about the noise.
1. Find out how noisy you are. So you can prove to your roommate that you’re quiet, or sort it out if needed
Your roommate could be unfairly complaining about nothing. Living with someone means tolerating some noise. You’re a living human being, and they need to get used to that.
Alternatively, maybe you’re too noisy.
If discussing it with your roommate has gotten nowhere and is a waste of time, the only real way is to prove it.
There are objective ways to measure sound; these are the methods used in the car industry, music venues, and other situations involving sound volume.
Measuring the noise objectively
You can find out exactly how loud a sound is with a decibel meter. Simply put, the loudness of a sound is a measurement of the pressure and intensity of the sound waves travelling through the air. If you like full scientific explanations, this article is a good place to begin.
A reliable decibel meter can be bought for about $20 on Amazon and eBay (we are not recommending either one, just giving you a place to start). There are also phone apps which you can download.
Taking the guesswork out of the equation can solve a disagreement when your roommate complains about the noise…or prevent a noise complaint from even starting.
How much noise is bad?
Sounds are measured in units called ‘decibels’ (dB). Opinions vary among the experts, but it is agreed that noises louder than 70 – 85 dB can be harmful depending on how long the noise continues, how often you hear it, and whether or not your ears are protected (earplus, earmuffs, etc.).
In general, exposure to noises above the safe level over 24 hours can cause hearing loss.
But that’s not all…
Hearing too much loud noise for too long:
- can cause hypertension (high blood pressure) and high cholesterol.
- may bring about “atrial fibrillation—an irregular heartbeat that can lead to blood clots and stroke”.
- could cause a lack of rest—not getting enough sleep has been linked to health conditions such as “obesity, diabetes, and heart disease”
- may encourage people to choose less healthy food and drink—loud music in restaurants and supermarkets appears to encourage people to purchase unhealthy foods and drink more alcohol
Cause for complaint, no?
How loud are common noises?
Here is a table of some of the noises we frequently hear and how loud they are on average. Keep in mind that the safe level is 70-85 dB.
Type of Noise
Average Decibel Level
Average music volume, vacuum cleaner, hair dryer, dishwasher
Heavy traffic, window air conditioner
All-terrain vehicle (ATV), motorcycle
MP3 players at max volume
Sports crowd, rock concert
Siren at 100 feet, jet taking off
Are you surprised?
I was the first time I saw this information.
I thought about when I used to take the train to and from work. There were always people listening to music. Even though they were wearing headphones, I could hear their music. I can only imagine what that was doing to their hearing.
As a good roommate, I wouldn’t want to be responsible for contributing to my roomie’s bad health, including hearing loss.
Noise is a big deal and can cause many health issues. Your roommate could be complaining about noise because it is making him feel bad.
2. Coordinate noisy times
Certain things need to get done. The carpets need to get vacuumed. The dishwasher needs to be turned on. Hair needs to get dried. (You get my point, right?)
Perhaps some of these things can be done while your roommate is out, so she won’t be able to complain about the noise.
Talk with your roommate about your daily, ‘noisy’ activities. How many can be done with the least disturbance possible?
For ‘once in a while’ loud events (such as parties, DIY power tools, and a jam session involving drums and guitars), give as much notice as possible. Do your best to schedule these events when your roommate is as far away as possible.
Check out more suggestions here.
3. Soundproof your home
Your roommate’s complaints about noise might not have anything to do with you. Some homes are full of creaky floors, gurgling pipes, and windows which let in too many loud, outside sounds.
Soundproofing a home can run from the simple to the complicated.
Wooden floors might need a few more nails where the wood has shrunk or warped. You can put down rugs or lay carpets.
Depending on the cause, special material can be wrapped around pipes or they can be fitted with additional parts which solve the problem.
There is soundproofing tape for windows and doors. Curtains can also be hung to reduce unwanted sounds.
Walls can be soundproofed with a variety of products. There are acoustic tiles and panels. If that is too big of a change or an expense, consider soundproofing paint.
Choosing the right acoustic tiles or panels can be confusing…especially with the number of products available. To help you, we did some research and found that there are three ratings you can check:
NRC—The Noise Reduction Coefficient is a measurement of sound absorption. The NRC number will be shown as a decimal or percentage. The higher to 1 or 100% it is, the more sound the material absorbs.
CAC—Short for Ceiling Attenuation Class, it measures how well the material will prevent the sound traveling to another space that shares a common air space above the ceiling. A CAC rating of 25 shows low performance. A rating of 35+ is considered high performance.
STC—The Sound Transmission Class gives information about how well the material prevents the sound from passing through it to the other side. STC is given as a number from 1-100 but can be higher. In general, an STC of 25 is not an effective material. A figure of 60+ would do a much better job.
We also looked around for some articles which rate acoustic tiles and panels. This article has a comprehensive review of acoustic tiles and foam panels. In this post, you can read about foam panel options as well as get DIY installation tips.
This article has lots of good ‘how to’ info for reducing noise where you live.
Who’s going to buy the materials…and do the work?
If it’s your own place, then DIY what you can and invest in a reliable handyman (or woman) to do the rest.
If you are renting, discuss things with your landlord. See what he or she is willing to help with. Perhaps it will be enough. No? Chat with your roommate(s) to see what you are able to do together.
It’s logical that your roommate will help because it is them who is complaining about the noise.
4. Fight noise with noise
White noise, that is.
An article on the website, How Stuff Works describes white noise as follows: “If you took all of the imaginable tones that a human can hear and combined them together, you would have white noise.”
Studies show that white noise helps people of all ages sleep (including babies) because it is effective at masking the other noises around us.
There is a lot of white noise to be had for free on the internet via YouTube and phone apps. Just be aware that not everyone is a white noise fan. Some people are actually more irritated by white noise than by regular noise…and I am one of them.
5. Buy them earplugs
Ear plugs, ear muffs, ear defenders—whichever one he chooses can help your roommate complain less about noise…because he won’t hear as much of it.
That’s provided the ear protection is fitting well and being used correctly. How can you check?
On the US government website of CDC/NIOSH, there is a handy sound check test.
If you go through the choices of earplugs with your roommate and buy them, they have less to complain about because you have gone through it all with them.
6. Perhaps your ‘complaining about the noise’ roommate is sensitive to sounds?
In surfing the internet, I came across an interesting story. The roommate is sensitive to the noises of people using the bathroom next to his bedroom. For example, the whirring of the bathroom fan which starts when the light is turned on; the sound of the water hitting the bathtub when someone takes a shower; and the squeaky door hinge.
Seems a bit excessive, no? However, some people are hypersensitive to sounds. So, they hear noises as louder than they are objectively (if we would measure them in decibels).
There are four types of sound sensitivity:
- hyperacusis – less than average tolerance for regular, environmental sounds
- recruitment – occurs in people with hearing loss: Some pitch hairs in the ears are damaged. The result is that the person cannot hear sounds at that frequency. Surrounding pitch airs are ‘recruited’ to help. Thing is, they usually kick in when the decibel level is much higher. So, the person goes from relative silence to being blasted by noise.
- hypersensitive hearing – from birth, some people are particularly sensitive to sounds at certain frequencies.
- misophonia/phonophobia – a negative reaction to sounds, no matter what the frequency or loudness.
Hypersensitivity to sounds is treatable. This article gives some examples of what can be done.
A Quiet Refuge, Best Acoustic Panels and Soundproof Foam 2019 (with Installation Guide)
Apartment Therapy, How To Reduce Ambient Noise at Home, Inside and Out
CDC/NIOSH, How Can I Test My Hearing Protection?
Consumer Reports, The Many Health Effects of Noise
Digital Spy, New housemate – sensitive to noise
ExplainThatStuff, Sound level (decibel) meters
Health Link BC, Harmful Noise Levels
Healthy Hearing, The best smartphone decibel meter apps to measure noise levels
Hearing Health Foundation, Decibel Levels
Home Tips, 8 Sound Proofing Secrets for a Quieter Home
How Stuff Works, What is What Noise?
NCBI, Effect of White Noise on Sleep in Patients Admitted to a Coronary Care
NCBI, White noise and sleep induction
Science Direct, Auditory and non-auditory effects of noise on health
Soundproof Living, Best Soundproof Foam Panels (6-Step Guide to Better Acoustics)
The Hyperacusis Network, 4 Types of Sound Sensitivity
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