During 4 years on strata council, Sylvia became horrified with the ongoing dysfunction around noise complaints. So she devised a system.
What determines if noise has risen to the level of pollution? That’s subjective, isn’t it? Each person will have different:
- Past experiences
- Levels of sensitivity.
And all will affect how much noise is acceptable.
Are You Being Too Sensitive About Noise Pollution?
Once upon a time, a little girl named Melissa was diligent about practising her piano. Until an elderly gentleman moved in upstairs who wouldn’t tolerate the music. He’d go ballistic with so much as a keystroke.
Should the little girl give up piano all together to pacify the elderly gent upstairs? No damn way!
Unfortunately, he refused to compromise and instead became a nasty bully (pounding on the door, screaming insults, etc.). The mother ended up selling her condo. She and her daughter moved away.
In the new condo, the mother contacted her upstairs neighbour requesting input on her daughter’s piano practice schedule. A businesswoman in her 50’s, she was only too happy to oblige. They chose a specific hour each day convenient for the daughter and while the businesswoman was at work.
“And don’t worry about weekends,” the business woman said. “I can handle listening to a couple of hours of piano practice.”
However, one day the mother received a text from the businesswoman:
“I was wondering if little Melissa might skip her piano practice today? I’m sorry to have to ask, but I’m in bed with a terrible migraine.”
Of course, Melissa took the day off from her piano playing. Compromise is important from both sides.
Issues arise when a person is too rigid, such as the elderly gent in the story. You cannot live in attached housing and expect absolute silence.
Are You Being Too Insensitive About Noise Pollution?
On the flip-side, some self-absorbed folks believe it’s their RIGHT to live their lives without editing themselves. They couldn’t care less who they’re affecting. Excessive noise is part of their lifestyle.
Unfortunately, noise pollution has negative repercussions on quality of life.
For a fact, if you:
- Stomp your feet,
- Shout, scream or howl,
- Turn up your electronics (television/stereo) louder than a speaking voice,
- Slam your cupboard doors or bedroom doors,
Then your neighbours are going to hear you.
If you do it often enough, your neighbours will become annoyed, and eventually do something to stop it.
As per law and logic, each of us must be responsible for ensuring our noise pollution stays within our home. This is respectful and considerate. It’s part of community living. It’s part of being a decent human being.
Consider if laws and logic were reversed. Imagine a strata complex of inconsiderate residents making as much noise as they wanted or could. The complex would cease to be a community of little sanctuaries where it was possible to rest and regenerate. It would become a ghetto where recuperation from the stresses of the outside world and a good night’s sleep are impossible.
What are the Detrimental Effects of Noise Pollution?
Studies have shown that residential noise from neighbouring apartments and even within one's own home can cause significant irritation and stress due to the great deal of time people spend within their residences.
According to medical journals, noise pollution is having increasingly detrimental effects on public health. Continuous or non-continuous noise, loud enough to distract, can result in an increased risk of:
- Annoyance, anxiety and emotional stress which can lead to depression and other mental health disorders.
- Disruption with intellectual tasks such as reading, writing or number crunching.
- Sleep disturbances, which cause daytime sleepiness. This will affect performance and eventually lead to a loss of productivity.
- Increased blood pressure and heart rate. Which can eventually lead to hypertension and cardiovascular disease.
Ongoing, unwanted noise is a threat to health and well-being, and diminishes quality of life.
Societal history is filled with failures to recognize and deal with the causes of disease. Thankfully, laws are in place to deal with unwanted noise.
What Laws Exist Against Noise Pollution?
- Accept your written noise complaints and
- Deal with your noisy neighbours.
The following are excerpts taken from the City of North Vancouver’s Noise Control Bylaw 5819. Wherever you live in British Columbia, (and possibly the world) the laws will be similar.
Quiet Area Sound Level
A person may make, cause or permit to be made, a continuous sound with a sound level during the daytime of 55 decibels or less, and during the nighttime of 45 decibels or less when received at a point of reception within a quiet area.
The definition of :
“quiet area” includes any area of the municipality where the absence of noise is of particular importance to persons in that area at any time, and includes any area within the municipality shown on Schedule “A” attached hereto; (the areas zoned residential were included in the quiet area shown on Schedule A).
“noise” includes: any sound, continuous sound or non-continuous sound which disturbs or tends to disturb the peace, quiet, rest, enjoyment, comfort or convenience of the neighbourhood in which such sound is received, or, of any reasonable person in the vicinity of the source of such sound who receives such sound.
What's a Decibel?
According to Wikipedia:
The decibel (dB) is a logarithmic unit used to express the ratio between two values of a physical quantity, often power or intensity. One of these quantities is often a reference value, and in this case the decibel can be used to express the absolute level of the physical quantity, as in the case of sound pressure.
City bylaws are usually based on decibels.
Threshold of human hearing
Rustling leaves, mosquito
Whisper, quiet library
Noisy city traffic
How Can I Insulate Myself from my Noisy Neighbours?
You’ve formally complained about your neighbours noise and gotten the authorities involved.
Your neighbours know they’re bothering somebody. Yet the noise continues, heightening your irritation because now, it seems deliberate.
Unfortunately, the authorities often need time to quiet your neighbours.
Don’t worry! The following ideas will go a long way to ease your suffering. Machines are available to drown out the bulk of your neighbour’s noise with preferable sounds.
White noise: has equal intensity (steady and unvarying) across all frequencies audible by the human ear. Usually the sound is unobtrusive.
- whirring fan or space heater
- radio or television static
- hissing radiator
- humming air conditioner
Pink noise: has equal power per octave (sounding flat or even) across all frequencies audible by the human ear. It’s safe and has no downside. In fact, a recent study found that older adults who used it at night did better on memory tests the next day.
- rustling leaves
- steady rain
- ocean waves
- Earplugs can be the difference between tossing and turning all night, or sleeping.
- Noise-cancelling Headphones can make the difference if you can’t wear earplugs.
For both earplugs and headphones, do your homework. Here’s a good place to start.
More Information on Noisy Neighbour Issues:
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2021 Sylvia Leong