How to Block Out Noisy Sound Pollution at Home

Fed up with background noise interrupting meetings and sleep? Here are some tips to stifle distracting city sounds.

living room with gallery shelves and l shaped couch

Better Homes & Gardens / Dylan Chandler

According to data from Upwork, 22% of the American workforce is expected to work from home by 2025. This can be a great arrangement if street traffic and noisy neighbors don’t disturb every Zoom meeting or Teams call. But with this shift also comes noise pollution for many homes in urban settings.

According to National Geographic, “Noise pollution impacts millions of people on a daily basis. The most common health problem it causes is Noise Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL). Exposure to loud noise can also cause high blood pressure, heart disease, sleep disturbances, and stress. These health problems can affect all age groups, especially children.” 

For those living in bustling towns, the ideal option might be to move to a quieter locale. But for many, the next best option is to make modest soundproofing improvements at home using one of these simple and affordable steps.


Better Homes & Gardens / David Tsay

Create Natural Barriers

If you’ve ever moved into a new place and every squeak sounded like a scream, that’s because there was nothing in the home to block noise naturally. Upholstered furniture, especially plush fabrics, absorbs sound. Decorating with a sofa, chairs, and beds should dull the loudest sounds. If that’s not enough, strategically place bookshelves against walls adjacent to neighboring homes or facing the street. Lay down carpet or rugs to minimize noise creeping up from below.

Also, eco-friendly installations, like trees and shrubbery outside your home, can create natural barriers that block noise. Green fencing with climbing plants is an excellent outdoor solution. Placing large leafy plants on a windowsill or near exterior doors can also help diminish noise.

Soundproof Doors and Windows

You can't control the external environment but elements within your home can block incoming noise. Try weather strips on your door and window frames to block air and sound from coming in. Small gaps and holes can be large culprits. Silicone strips are known for high-performance soundproofing. If your doors and windows need a replacement, consider buying top-of-the-line soundproof doors and sound-resistant windows. Soundproof glass is specially designed to prevent the inflow or outflow of noise by fixing two layers of laminated glass inside a single frame. This design traps noise. If you live near a live music venue or busy entertainment space, you might want to invest in acoustic doors for your home or garage. 

antique area rug modern couch living room

Better Homes & Gardens / David Tsay

Cover Floors 

Carpeting is a practical way to block noise pollution. Carpet or area rugs with a high pile block noise from below and prevent sound vibrations from spreading. But don’t forget to pad floors with insulation, padding, or mass-loaded vinyl before putting down the carpet. If you're renovating your home and considering hardwood or laminate, choose engineered options that allow for sound-absorbing underlayment.

Be careful when installing tile. Depending on the foot traffic in your home, this flooring can enhance noises originating from within your home. If you can’t change the tile in high-traffic areas, consider wearing slippers indoors.

Install Thick Window Treatments

Thick curtains and drapes are not just for show. These window treatments are also useful sound absorbers, and wool and velvet are highly recommended. Noise-reducing curtains typically have a two-layer design. They often are advertised as blackout or thermal-insulated, too. And don't assume you can only find noise-blocking curtains in dark colors. There are many color choices available to keep your room light and airy but still quiet.

Get Noise-Canceling Headphones 

Some people tout white noise machines at night, but masking noise with noise isn’t ideal during the day. Instead, invest in noise-canceling headphones. Simply turning on the noise cancellation feature can dramatically improve residual noise that makes it into your daily routine. Much like earmuffs, the most highly-rated noise-canceling headphones go over your head and completely cover your ears. You can also try earbuds, which work almost like earplugs, but these can easily slip out during high-intensity workouts or fast-paced days.

The Reality of Living in a Noisy City

Minimizing noise pollution starts with limiting exposure to loud noises. If you live close to construction sites, major highways, train stations, or stadiums and entertainment venues, these tips will help but they won’t solve the problem. Try to steer clear of your home during peak times–stay with a friend or work from another place while the jackhammer is going. Many places, like Connecticut, New York City, and Bellevue, Washington, have noise ordinances that limit sound to an acceptable decibel level and only during certain times of the day. Reach out to your community, city, or county representatives to learn more about how to report lapses.

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