Always looking for fresh input on noise issues, I came across an excellent article on a website called "Noise-Off."
First, let me remind readers that worldwide, more people are disturbed by noise in their day-to-day lives than by any other pollutant on Earth, and yet we have only scratched the surface when it comes to understanding the effect our noise has on others, the effect others' noise has on us, and what noise pollution is doing to our health and (sometimes) sanity.
I liked the "Noise-off" article specifically because it addresses noise responsibility - what, exactly, do we owe our neighbors when it comes to peace and quiet? Is this an ethical issue, or a legal issue? Maybe both.
Here is an excerpt:
You have the right to the peace and enjoyment of your own home.
Most municipalities view noise complaints as a quality of life issue, but for people exposed to noise on a constant basis, it is a form of assault. They feel they are the only one suffering and often feel helpless and trapped in their own homes and apartments.
People who create or allow noise to intrude on a neighbor are indifferent to the rights of others. It is a form of passive aggressive behavior. Where children and teenagers are involved, parents need to set clear examples of appropriate behavior. Businesses are responsible for their environmental impact on the community.
In any conflict between two parties, there is usually a hidden third party that is behind the turmoil. Noise disputes between neighbors are often caused by boom cars, car alarms, and loud exhaust systems. The prevalence of these technologies has turned neighbor against neighbor, whereby the companies that produce these products quietly profit and assume no liability.
Noise ordinances and enforcement vary greatly from one community to another. Until there is a nationwide warranty of habitability that covers noise, residents will have to rely on what local protections are available. Obtain a written copy of the noise ordinance in your area and learn how the police handles noise complaints.
Attend neighborhood community meetings to learn if other residents are also experiencing noise problems. Identify officials who support your cause. You can create alliances to establish a group to present noise issues.
Social and economic factors influence the quality of protections available to its residents. A legislative body driven by economic interests may prefer to protect local businesses instead of residents.
Political influence typically mandates the initiatives for law enforcement to focus on. Those mandates are usually based on community demand and media interest. Some police departments do not always seek to reduce crime in as much to manage crime. They may release statistical metrics to show enforcement activity with regard to noise related quality of life complaints, but that does not necessarily correlate to any actual reduction in noise.
Some types of noise complaints are handled by different government agencies other than the police. Other agencies may include the Department of Environmental Protection, Animal Control (SPCA), Department of Housing, Department of Transportation and the Board of Health.
One of the biggest sources of neighbor complaints is barking dogs. The real problem is the negligent owner who is indifferent to the welfare of their dog. Some owners will even cast their pet outside all night and assume it can act as an effective guard dog.
Some breeds are more likely to bark more than others, such as Shelties and Collies. However, all dogs can learn to reduce barking when it is properly trained and socialized.
Affected owners and neighbors can install electronic devices that use a specially designed microphone and speaker that picks up a dog's bark and then sends out a corrective tone to keep the dog from barking. As a final resort, dog owners opt for a controversial veterinary procedure called debarking, in which the dog's vocal cords are permanently severed. We do not advocate this procedure.
Neighbors will sometimes adopt farm animals or wild animals in urban or suburban environments, creating tremendous noise for neighbors who live nearby. In most cases, it is in violation of the law and the SPCA or animal control can intervene.
This raises an excellent conversation when it comes to how best to combat the noise that is chiseling away at our quality of life. Do you have any noise issues, with neighbors, or at work? Tell us about them.
There are no Federal regulations specifying what materials can be used to create sound barriers along any stretch of U.S. highway. State DOT officials choose the type of highway traffic barriers that go up along their district roadways, often basing their decision on multiple factors such as budget, aesthetics, durability, maintenance and public input.
The American public has a love-hate relationship with highway noise barriers. Those living closest to noisy highways and rail tracks are most appreciative of sound barriers, which offer them the benefits of increased privacy, better views, a quieter living environment and a healthier lifestyle.
A primary consideration when determining the appropriate design for a noise barrier is the visual impact it will have on the area. Placing a tall barrier adjacent to communities with one-story homes can impede the view and the whole aesthetic dynamic. When it comes to addressing the noise barrier size issue in these communities, one answer is to provide staggered elements, such as native vegetation and other appropriate landscape, to the foreground to reduce the barrier’s visual impact.
Planning the placement of sound barriers is extremely important when it comes to retaining a visually pleasing value within the neighborhood. One rule of thumb that is often adhered to is to locate the noise barrier approximately four times its height from adjacent homes and buildings, and to install landscaping close to the barrier.
Ideally, highway sound barriers should harmonize with their surroundings as much as possible. Some sound abatement materials used in highway barriers are more adaptable than others; in addition to visual considerations, planners look for sound barrier materials that are low maintenance, easily installed and durable.
Sound barriers can have a psychological effect on motorists, a factor that is considered in the design process. The design of noise barriers in dense urban settings will be different than the barriers installed in rural and suburban areas. On urban highways, sound barriers need to be designed to avoid monotony for the motorists, who tend to notice things like surface texture, overall form and color. DOT planners have found that by varying the materials
, forms and surface treatments of the barriers, they can combat the “tunnel effect” that motorists experience driving long stretches alongside an unchanging sound barrier wall.
Graffiti is always a potential problem with noise barriers. Using a sound barrier material that can be easily washed or painted is an excellent preventative measure that planners can take, particularly in areas where graffiti is probably going to be an issue.
Vegetation, if it is dense and tall, can provide a very small measure of noise dampening, but not nearly enough to achieve any serious noise reduction
along a busy highway. The best idea is to use trees and vegetation to camouflage the barrier for a visually pleasing solution to highway noise.
Most people who live or work near a highway noise barrier are pleased with the reduced levels of traffic noise, and there is a general consensus that the benefits provided by highway noise barriers far outweigh their disadvantages. While noise barriers do not completely eliminate all highway traffic noise, they do reduce it substantially and improve the quality of life for those who live and work next to busy highways or train rails.