“Noise should be seen but not heard,” states one advertisement for window glass. However, we Indians love noise — the more the better! That's the reason why we do not pay much attention given to noise reduction in homes.
An incident of outside noise causing problem to a residential area came up a few years ago. The newly opened high-rise building had installed an air-conditioner. The water used was re-circulated by cooling through a motor/pump. This set off a continuous humming sound that was a source of annoyance to the neighbourhood. A complaint given to the owner of the building was ignored stating that the noise was within limits.
Thoroughly disappointed with such a negative attitude, some of the residents approached the Corporation authorities. Thanks to the investigation work done by the inspector concerned, the owner agreed to install a barrier to contain the sound. Then the noise level reduced considerably much to the relief of the residents, who had suffered for so long.
Traffic noise is one of the sources of noise that affects a householder. He/she has little control over such man-made noise, except taking certain steps to minimise the effect of noise inside. Plants outside, where possible, could cut some of the noise. Blinds and drapes on windows could further act as barriers. It is rare to see a construction, which has proactively taken steps to install noise-reducing steps such as fixing foam boards and other sound absorbing materials inside or outside the walls. That applies to windows, which could have a frame outside that could absorb or deflect sound.
Noise generated inside a house is rarely recognised by someone who has been living along. He/she fails to appreciate the fact that the noise level is high and could have long-term deleterious effects such as loss of hearing or other effects on the human body due to prolonged exposure to noise. There are a few sources of noise inside a house — TV, music system, air-conditioner, washing machine, refrigerator, microwave and so on.
Some of the modern domestic appliances have less noise level. For example, a refrigerator, as it is on continuous operation, makes a buzzing noise when the compressor is activated periodically. The modern refrigerator, especially the compressor, is improved as far as energy and noise level are concerned as compared to the older versions. It would be desirable if the householder pays attention to noise emanating from domestic appliances and seeks advice before buying a particular model. While some noise is unavoidable, one has to look for constant buzz or heavy noise that could lead to long-term effects without one's knowledge.
Loss of hearing is one health hazard which one recognises when it's too late. Personal stereos and cellphones should be used with caution, preferably at reduced sound levels or with hand-held devices and that too sparingly. Another problem are noisy neighbours! We can only appeal to them to tone their TV/music system and talk/laugh less loudly!
Indoor drapes, shades, indoor plants and lower noise domestic equipment are the means to achieve lower noise levels for a comfortable living. A floor could have sound absorbing materials coated to minimise noise when someone walks on it. Sound absorbing material could be fixed inside or outside at strategic locations which could minimise the external noise effect. That applies to noise deflectors, such as barriers and plants that could deflect noise if it is from any specific location.
Noise could lead to health hazards, besides spoiling one's mood when someone seeks quiet and peace at his/own home. The government has fixed a limit of 55 db maximum for residential areas during daytime and 45 db maximum during nighttime, which unfortunately is followed more in the breach than in practice. A citizen has a right to complain about noise that disturbs him. Police could lend a helping hand to shut down loudspeakers beyond 10 p.m. or warn a boisterous party going on next door.
(The writer's email is firstname.lastname@example.org)