I recently moved into a shared house with 3 other roommates (4 if you count the couple as 2 people) on the main floor. It's also close to a busy street. At night the noise sometimes disturbs me. Sources of noise:

  1. cars and trucks going by
  2. music from roommates (especially with loud base)
  3. roommates opening and closing doors
  4. people using the bathroom (my bedroom is right beside it)

Things I've tried:

  1. closing window
  2. ear plugs (I find they fall out while I sleep)
  3. turning on air purifier (makes noise similar to fan)
  4. app on my phone for white noise
  5. going to bed earlier

My roommates have approximately the same schedule, but one ends work at midnight. There's only one who plays music with speakers and I should probably talk to him about it but I don't want to upset him when I just moved in. Even on the lowest volume, trance music is still very difficult to sleep with.

EDIT: I'm open to suggestions for sources of white noise, for example I've been using an app on my phone but I find that the sound has too much variation and that I prefer very constant sound e.g. if it's rain noises it disturbs me if every 30 or 60 seconds they throw in thunder.

UPDATE: thankfully I moved out of this place.

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    Talk to the guy who just moved in and ask him to turn the music down or off. It's perfectly reasonable to expect something very close to silence after midnight. Not talking to him is just storing up problems for the future. He's likely to be upset, confused and perhaps even angry if you put up with his music for months and only then ask him to turn it down. – David Richerby May 29 '15 at 11:03
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    Talk to those people without any hesitation ... if they don't listen change the localily Don't waste your time thinking too much about them. – user6887 May 29 '15 at 13:35
  • When he plays music through the speakers, do you know what he is doing? I only ask because maybe he would be willing to wear headphones past a certain time. But if he is trying to sleep himself and the music helps him, it could be difficult getting him to change it – DoubleDouble May 29 '15 at 17:18
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    The fundamental question here seems to be "how do I find better ear plugs?" as ear plugs are the general well-established solution here. This does not seem to require a "hack" of any sort. This can only degenerate into a list of everybody's favorite brand of ear plugs or white noise apps. – Captain Obvious May 29 '15 at 19:44
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    If you share an electrical circuit (and fuse) with the inconsiderate (and hearing impaired) "person," short circuit (blow) or remove the fuse to turn off the electricity to the offending appliance. Slip an anonymous note under the door informing them of their inconsiderate behaviour with a suggestion for using headphones. Don't forget the smiley at the end. : ) – Stan Jul 24 '16 at 18:15

11 Answers 11

up vote 12 down vote accepted

I found standard cylindrical earplugs are prone to falling out because they are too long: they protrude from the ear, so every time you move your head on the pillow, the earplugs are pushed sideways.
I solved this by cutting them in half, making 2 short cylinders.

Note: this works well in my case. If you roll up the earplug and insert it completely into the ear canal, it may be fiddly to remove (although tweezers should be sufficient).

My ear canals are on the small side, so I can't insert a rolled-up earplug.
Instead, I wedge a cut-in-half earplug into the opening of the ear canal. This creates a good seal without the need to roll up the earplug, and it leaves the tip of the earplug sticking out far enough to easily remove it.

Earplug cut in half

  • 18
    Be careful if you shorten the earplugs that you can still take them out okay – DoubleDouble May 29 '15 at 17:21
  • I've been using these daily for several years now, never had trouble removing them. The diameter doesn't change, so it's difficult to insert them too deeply. – Hobbes May 29 '15 at 20:08
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    I don't understand how it's relevant that the diameter doesn't change. This type of earplug is inserted by rolling it between your fingers to make it into a thin stick, then letting that expand in your ear. If you're inserting the plug properly, cutting it in half sounds very likely to get it stuck in your ear: certainly, my ear's much deeper than half an earplug. – David Richerby May 30 '15 at 18:11
  • I see now. I don't roll up the ear plug to insert it. I've edited my answer to clarify. – Hobbes May 30 '15 at 18:43
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    Please note: These are designed and made to accommodate the most narrow of ear canals. You are using them incorrectly and giving advice based on your particular unusual physical condition. When used according to instructions, it is not necessary to modify this kind of device for effective use. – Stan Jul 24 '16 at 18:25

There are some silicone putty earplugs that stay in much better. The brand I'm familiar with is called bio ears. They mould into your ear giving them some of the advantages of the custom fitted ones, as well as being more comfortable than effective foam earplugs.

  • I've also personally found silicone earplugs much easier to put in than foam ones. – Esteemator May 30 '15 at 21:10

When used as designed, ear plugs will not fall out. Ear plugs should be rolled between your fingers to make them thinner, then inserted fully into the ear. You will feel it expand into place and you will hear noise greatly reduce. I encourage you to watch some videos on the use of ear plugs for more information.

Also worth noting is that ear plugs are designed to be single-use. Repeated removal and insertion will cause them to fit more poorly and reduce their effectiveness. In the environment you describe, you can probably get away with multiple uses.

http://lifehacker.com/5275516/properly-insert-earplugs-for-better-protection

I would recommend the app SimplyNoise (iOS link, Android link).

You mention that you tried "white noise" apps that "don't have a constant" sound. Actual white noise is completely constant, like static from a TV or radio not tuned to a channel or station.

So, if the app you used delivered rain/thunder sound, it was not a white noise app - just a "noise", or "background noise" app.

To expand more on the topic: white noite has a precise mathematical definition, which is "a random signal with a constant power spectral density". This means that it has all frequencies in equal amounts contained in it.

Although this kind of noise is a bit hard to get used to, you can leverage its property of having all frequencies: this means that it will "mask" noises of all frequencies equally, no matter if it is a small dog barking loud (high frequency) or a bass drum from a trance song.

Try to get used to this noise for a few nights. Maybe start at a low volume and increase it gradually. After you get used to it, you just kind of stop noticing it a few minutes after you put it on - it just "fades into the background".

If you really can't get used to it, try pink and Brownian ("brown") noise, which SimplyNoise also supports. They are stronger in the lower frequencies and weaker on the higher ones, which makes them sound less "harsh" to the ear.

Naturally, this also means they will be less effective at masking higher-frequency noises (some telephones ringing, some breeds of dogs barking, maybe wood squeaking), but really any of them is good enough.

Below is a picture of the power spectrum (that is, how much of each frequency the signal has) of white, pink and Brownian noise.

I personally like Brownian noise. Very rarely a noise is able to slip past it in my context. To me, it sounds like heavy rain (just perfectly constant and with no thunder), or an airplane's engine, which I find relaxing.

Spectrum of white, pink and Brownian noise

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    This is THE ONLY way to win in this situation. Mask the noise. I do it with our air conditioner when the wife goes to bed I bang around for a few more hours. I turn the air conditioner on but only the fan, the noise masks my movements and what not. The white noise apps are just next level. Have used them and they work really well. Especially with headphones and a timer :) – Citizen May 30 '15 at 4:56
  • That's a very good point. I've been using apps for so long that I forgot that some appliances work well too. I don't have AC, but fans, refrigerators and computer fans (if your computer is big/powerful enough) also work well. For a while, I also just opened simplynoise.com in my computer (that was on 24/7), turned on the speakers loud enough and turned off the monitor. Also works well if it's not bothering anyone. – Rafael Almeida May 31 '15 at 1:01
  • Regarding timers, the app Sleep Cycle includes white/pink/brown/ambient noise functionality with a timer. This timer can either be fixed (eg. 20 minutes), or "smart". In the second case, the app turns off the sound when it thinks you are asleep. It does so by measuring how much you move - when you stop moving long enough, it considers you to be asleep. Look up "sleep actigraphy" if you are interested. – Rafael Almeida May 31 '15 at 1:05

Have you tried asking your housemates to be more considerate about music and how they move about the house at night?

In the end you need to peacefully share the space you're in, and if they don't know there's a problem, they can't fix it.

If they continue to behave in a way which is disturbing your sleep, you could try the "life hack" of finding somewhere else to live.

Well, you already found out about white noise, how long did you try it and what did you think about it? Either way, if earplugs are not your thing ambient noise generators are by far the next best option. I find brown noise the easiest to get used to personally and it's perfect for trying to fall asleep (don't need it anymore, but used it for awhile). It takes about two or three days before you stop hearing it (just like a fan) and if you start at a low volume and slowly increase the volume it can easily overcome a lot of outside noise. The only downside is that I have heard about people having trouble falling asleep when they were without it (e.g. when sleeping over and it would disrupt the others in the room).

Not all apps have brown and pink noise generators, but if you throw it into Google there are a lot of sites that are capable of generating it. Which reminds me of one other option: Soundscapes. Only used them sometimes when I had trouble falling asleep. They are recordings of things like rain1, nature or other ambient sounds. In principle that should work just as well.

1 Small disadvantage of rain: prepare to feel far colder... perfect in summer, but not in winter xD .

You could try sleep restriction if this is a long term problem. Limit yourself to a strict 6 hours sleep a night at fixed times (0100 - 0700 for example). Make sure you are only in your room between those hours, so your body gets used to the cycle. The first week of doing this is horrible, but after a while you'll find it's much easier to get to sleep. I used to get pretty bad insomnia and this is the only thing that worked for me.

I have a different approach: noise cancelling speakers. You have heard of noise cancelling headphones... There are several available at different price points, although I have not used them personally I have read that they can work quite well. Here is one example:http://mobile.extremetech.com/electronics/6-sono-a-noise-cancelation-and-isolation-device-that-sticks-on-your-window .

  • Is there any real product? – Daniel Santos Jul 27 '16 at 3:30

View enduring noise at night as a form of self-improvement.

The best long term solution is to learn to sleep in a noisy environment. This is a requirement for anyone who has moved from the suburbs/countryside to a densely populated urban environment.

It takes about 3 weeks - you will be tired during this time - but after this you will adjust to the new environment. I personally now have difficulty sleeping in a quiet environment after years of living in cities!

  • Is this a version of, "Whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger?" – Stan Jul 24 '16 at 18:28
  • @Stan Absolutely not; I completely disagree with that quote. For example, a labotomy doesn't kill you, and it makes you much weaker. My point is that when people move to a noisy city, it just takes some time to adjust. If you try to speed the adjustment period, it will be easier. – axsvl77 Jul 25 '16 at 1:21
  • @Stan I honestly don't think it is healthy to wear ear plugs or listen to white noise at night for a long period of time in a place of permanent residence. As millions around the world enjoy live in noisy cities, and sleep well, I am trying to make that case that anyone can do it. – axsvl77 Jul 25 '16 at 1:25

Solution (not a hack): Love 'em or leave 'em.

  • +1 I think for bad flatmates, this is a good solution. But to abandon urban life just to avoid hearing road noise is to extreme. – axsvl77 Jul 25 '16 at 1:34

If trance boy turns down his bass, or disconnects his subwoofer, you will no longer hear it through the walls, and he might not even notice the difference.

Failing that, my goto noise app (iOS) is Storm Sim. You can set the thunder as soft (or none) as you want. Dozens of rain noises to mix together to give you a custom mix. I think it costs money nowadays but it has a lot more binaural-wide-angle-stereo-sounding rain than most of the other free apps. Note - all of the built-in mixes have thunder. You will want to ignore those and create your own mix.

  • There's also noisli.com for adjustable SFX. – Stan Jul 24 '16 at 18:31

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