It’s a Noisy World Out There: Here is Help to Turn It Off

it-is-a-noisy-world-out-thereYou might have noticed that over time I have written a lot of posts that somehow relate to noise.

For example, I have covered how noise directly affects memory and performance for students and professionals and how it affects our sleep.

I have also covered how sleep and memory consolidation are directly related. More noise means less deep sleep. But deep sleep is paramount to reorganizing what you have learned during the day and connecting it with other memories.

Being constantly exposed to disruptive noise at night and you can kiss the fruits of your hard learning good bye, despite becoming prolific at and using the best memory techniques.

Incessant noise also increases stress hormone levels: another killer of memory and well-being.

Noise is insidious. Exposing yourself to constant levels of more than 85 decibels doesn’t hurt; it’s quite easy with good headphones. But, over time it can wreak havoc on your hearing.

When I was a teenager, I was completely oblivious to what the ringing in my ears after a night in the disco or in front of a speaker wall actually meant. After all, the ringing was always gone in the morning. I even built some enormous speakers for my living room. That was then.

Over the years, I have become fascinated with solving noise problems and using sound more consciously to help me learn better and become happier.

About three months ago, I decided I needed more space for this ongoing project.

It was time for a blog to shut out the noise, and so came into being.

NoisyWorld focuses on:

  • Practical solutions for stopping obnoxious noise. This includes both general noise that impairs sleep, performance, and well-being and noise that is loud enough to damage hearing.
  • Using sound to improve sleep, performance and productivity, and happiness.

My flirtations with noise and insomnia

Noise started to become a serious issue for me in the early 2000s. I had moved to Asia for work and for about four years everything was well. Then I moved to a different, much nicer, and much more expensive apartment.

A few months later yet, a couple moved in upstairs.

She was a flight attendant and came home late at night, so a lot of their life together took place around and after midnight. As is typical in that part of the world, the ceilings are thin and not soundproofed at all. What’s more, most people use tiles, not carpets on their floor.

Out of nowhere came these deep stomping sounds startling me and either waking me up or keeping me awake in anticipation of them.

I ended up with severe insomnia, something I hadn’t known before.

In all likelihood, there were other reasons for my sleeplessness as well, but it appeared to me at that time that the stomping was the main culprit.

Over time, I also became sensitive to other noises occurring at night and even during the day, including the noise when the AC thermostat switches on the compressor, the traffic, the fridge, vibrations of unknown sources, and so on.

I started looking for a solution to my noise problem

I bought and tried various types of wax and foam earplugs. But they helped little. The wax ones somewhat muffled noise, but they seemed to amplify low-frequency sounds like the stomping. The foam plugs didn’t work at all.

What I didn’t know then is that you need real skills to select and insert foam earplugs properly. The difference between properly inserted and stuffed in foam earplugs can be more than 30 decibels for low frequency noise.

Ten decibels are perceived as being twice as loud, so 30 dB would be about eight times as loud.

In other words, by selecting foam earplugs that fit your ear canal and learning how to properly insert them you can reduce low-pitched sounds to 1/8th of their volume.

Anyway, over time I have found good, workable solutions to many noise problems. I keep accumulating hardware that makes life quieter and protects hearing. I also consciously use white noise, water stream and rain sounds, bamboo flutes and all kinds of instrumental music to improve my performance and my life.

I have become so fascinated by what is possible (and what not) that I keep running experiments and buy and tweak gadgets that I hope will push the boundaries.

And I have gotten a lot of encouraging feedback and even more questions on related posts on this blog.

So if this interests you the slightest bit, take a look at NoisyWorld.Org.

I would be very grateful for your feedback.

There is a lot of ground to cover, so please check back regularly.

If there is a problem you would like to see covered on NoisyWorld, or a solution or gadget you have found, please let me know.

Please share it with your friends and whoever might benefit.

This blog, will, of course, continue.

It will once again focus on learning, memory, cognitive performance, and productivity.

My own approach is holistic: learning techniques and software are great; but without a well-functioning metabolism the brain doesn’t work properly and we run out of steam, without a reasonably quiet environment we become distracted, and without proper sleep we won’t remember what we have learned.

All the best and have a happy week.


  • Image credits: Bells-noise-crash-three-monkeys, by Congerdesign via

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