"Few things under heaven are as instructive as the lessons of silence"
~ Lao Tzu (Tao Te Ching)
Needless to say, if you live where there are people, and have a certain level of income, you will have neighbours who create background noise, with occasional or sustained levels of disruptive frequencies.
I am in this position at present, and potentially for the rest of my life.
I live in a neighbourhood where there are dogs barking and screaming children, most days in fact, and I also live at present over a shop that has recently been re-let, with all of the disruption that entails (read: unwanted noise).
It is clear to me, absolutely crystal clear, that the world we inhabit is environmentally over-stimulated, and much of the time, our habits are to blame.
Our technology is noisy, expensive, environmentally damaging and inescapable unfortunately, so the only option for those of us with a delicate nature, is to adapt and find a way to buffer our senses.
I will admit, I have screamed out of the window at a neighbours dog twice now and also had fantasies of buying a rifle and shooting it. This particular neighbour clearly has no problem letting this creature stand on the yard and yap. Now, I don't blame the dog as it has been poorly trained, and when I'm in a more favourable frame of mind I don't blame the neighbours, as they probably lack sensitivity or are retarded in some way and this could be an educational issue. So rather than break the law and do something irrational and for the sake of my own sanity, I invested a little money in devices to metaphorically speaking, move my flat to a quiet leafy retreat away from people and their silly habits.
I am still experimenting as a I type, but have found a reasonably comfortable and affordable solution.
First up, I experimented with a variety of foam ear plugs and had varied results. There are so many plugs on the market and my main concern was comfort and ease of application. After trialling several different sorts, to date, the following plugs suit my ears.
These plugs are actually rather cheap compared to some of the other units on the market. They can be obtained for approximately £4 for a pack of twenty pairs, and this represents good value, as they are re-usable. I can use a pair for about a week before they start to lose their expansive potential. I can also sleep with these inserted, as they are reasonably pain-free when fitted correctly. However, after experimentation, I do have to trim the the 't shape' from the end of the plug, as this tends to create pressure against the outer ear when resting on a pillow at night. Overall though, these are nice and soft and easy to fit.
There are more robust varieties on the market, like the Hearos Ultimate series, but these for me, just aren't that comfortable or easy to insert. Perhaps given time and further experimentation, I could adapt to this variety.
I also found a mini pack of plugs in Tescos - these are an 'own brand' and ordinarily retail for around £2 for 6 pairs. These are rather good, but not as comfortable as the Howard Leight and I find it difficult to wear these for extended periods of time as they are made of a denser foam. On the plus side, compared to the 'Leights' the Tesco plugs seem to obscure a little more environmental noise.
Now, if you want a serious ally in your quest to shut out the world, let's wheel out the big guns.
These babies are excellent. I have only had these for two days now, so am still 'breaking them in' - the head band is a little tight, but this will stretch over time and the pressure will decrease.
They cost me £20 and were worth every penny.
Today there was a lot of noise downstairs. The shop radio was on quite loudly and tuned to a commercial station, there were voices, and more significantly, a truck was due to arrive on the forecourt and empty two commercial bins. Nightmare scenario! So, I popped these cans on to see how much sound they would obscure. The majority vanished as soon as they were fitted. I could still hear a muffled radio signal and distant clanks and bangs, but nothing to really complain about.
Then, as an experiment, I fitted ear plugs as well under the cans and the world become eerily silent, to the point where I could not hear the bins being emptied outside (usually this is the most horrendous metallic thumping sound).
I am impressed, and as these are designed for work use, they are quite comfortable, and I have sat wearing these for two hours at the computer without any real issues.
Obviously you don't have to wear ear plugs as well, as most of the time, these cans will suffice.
Another positive is that you will still hear important sounds within your own immediate environment, so things like the telephone or door bell can be heard. Which is useful of course.
It is important to remember that both ear plugs and mufflers will not eliminate all environmental noise, but we can use these devices to minimize the frequencies that jar our senses, and without these, my own life would be rather unpleasant.
Ultimately, I would like to think that humans will craft environments where these sorts of measures become redundant, but at present in this urban jungle it seems unlikely to be the case, as more and more people buy noise inducing machines and have unruly habits set to annoy their neighbours.
Take heart - there are affordable solutions & you don't have to end up like this: