How to Address Noise Complaints from Your Neighbor
Here are four ways to address noise complaints from an unhappy neighbor.
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You can purchase noise-absorbing acoustic panels to line your walls or ceilings, but simple carpets are usually recommended as the first line of defense.
Kjirsten Alexander, a Manhattan parent to a 3-year-old, explains that she reminds her child to play with blocks, or other toys that make noise against the floor, on her rug or play mat. “It’s an important lesson for her to consider others when she is playing,” Alexander says. In my situation, had I simply asked my son to move his toy cars from the step leading to our sunken living room and onto the living room floor, which is covered by a thick rug, we might have averted an issue that day.
If your child plays piano on an electric keyboard, they can practice using headphones. If you have an upright piano, put a thick rug under it, a felt runner on top, and try moving it at least six inches away from the wall to keep the sound from travelling. Ask your piano tuner about ways they may be able to help soften the sound.
If noise is unavoidable, ask your neighbor when they most need quiet.
Is your child’s trumpet practicing interfering with your neighbor’s video calls with clients? Does remote school gym class coincide with daily check-in with their boss? Once you’ve established communication, ask your neighbor which spaces of the apartment they most need quiet, and at what times. P.E. can be moved into another room, and music practice times can shift an hour. Try to approach the issue like a puzzle you and your neighbor are solving together.
You can even involve your kids in the process, deciding which toys or activities should be off-limits at certain times and in particular spaces.
Find low-noise solutions and activities for your child.
Some kids just need to wiggle. If your remote-schooling child is prone to making noise by scooting or tapping their chair, you could consider purchasing flexible seating like a wobble chair that will allow them to move around without tipping over. Similarly, a balance ball could accommodate the need to bounce.
For indoor play without all the footfalls, a mini trampoline might do the trick.
In all of your interactions, do your best to help your neighbor see you, and your children, as individuals struggling to negotiate the same unprecedented circumstances they are dealing with. Offer your first name, and introduce them to your kids. It’s easy to complain about a nameless, faceless person. When your neighbor knows that your 7-year-old plays the piano for 15 minutes every afternoon and has an hour-long dance class in the living room on Saturday mornings, it helps frame the noise as specific, meaningful, and—most importantly—temporary.
If you've tried just about everything and you're looking to get a little more extreme with your noise reduction, but in a reasonably affordable way, check out this video for noise proofing your apartment: