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02 Feb 2009

Noise burnout
Hallo there

Do you think it is possible to suffer from " noise burnout"  or " noise rage" ? I own a townhouse that shares a wall with the unit next door. Tenants moved in there about 15 months ago and in that time they have made our lives a living hell with their noise. The neighbours on the other side are lucky - they are separated from the Horror Family by two garages, so they are only affected when the Horrors actually make noise outside. Most of the time, however, the noise is made inside - constant slamming of doors and windows, things crashing and thumping, knocking and hammering on the wall, loud talking, shouting, swearing and fighting, dogs barking...even dishes being washed in the sink (which is obviously located against the Wall of Doom) is done in a way that sounds as if the wall in the kitchen is about to crash in on our side!! From the moment they get up in the morning (yes, we can hear it...heavy footsteps treading to the toilet, toilet door slams voilently closed..lets draw a veil over the noises that follow..), the noise thump and echo through the wall, until they actually all eventually pass out at night (this can be midnight, or the early hours of the morning, depending on the amount of alcohol consumed.) For the record, we never had the same problem with the two other families who used to rent there previously for about 7 years. We hardly ever heard the previous neighbours, so the current noise is not accidental or inadvertent.)

I have spoken to my other neighbours and they mostly only hear them when the screaming and fighting get out of hand and moves outside. Out of all the neighbours I am the worst affected because my place is directly connected to theirs. I have made contact with the owners and, long story short, the tenants are in the process of being evicted. I have however reached a point where I cannot hear any loud noise without flying into an almost uncontrollable rage. Even a door accidentally slamming at work or somebody suddenly laughing loudly make me want to commit murder. If I walk in the street and dog barks at me, even just once, I want to scream almost hysterically at it! My reaction seems abnormal, hence my question.

In the meantime, the eviction might take another 3 months and I am not sure I can stay sane that long. I can' t remember when last I have had an uninterrupted night' s sleep. I have no sense of privacy in my own home because the moment I walk in the front door, the first thing I hear is the loud conversations, banging, slamming and crashing from next door pumping through the wall.

I no longer invite people over to my place (too embarrassed) and I have asked my parents to postpone their annual visit - they are elderly and I cannot subject them to this torment for a week. My quality of life is seriously affected. I am seriously worried that I might do something irresponsible or stupid the next time I am kept awake until one in the morning because the people next door are busy slamming and crashing doors and things around until that time. (Doors are slammed with such violence that it sounds like bombs exploding through our place. And sometimes it goes on at a rate of 7-8 times every 15 minutes...I know, because I have lain in bed counting. Sad, isn' t it.)

The problem is that I can hardly phone the police - the noise does not affect the neighbourhood as a whole, it is localised into my townhouse. Is there any recourse that I have for the next three months (or however long it is going to take to get these people out once and for all), seeing that it is not industrial or party noise, but something where the effects are mostly limited to my household? And do I suffer from noise rage?

Answer 889 views
EnviroHealth expert
envirohealth expert

01 Jan 0001

Well one indication that your mental health is still intact is that you haven't lost your sense of humour! Seriously though, this sounds like a nightmare and you have my sympathies.

"Noise rage" and "noise burnout" (good terms!) haven't been documented as such as I'm aware, but the negative effects of noise pollution on health most definitely have. The stress and sleep disturbance as a result of noise pollution have been linked to mental health problems like depression and anxiety, and, yes, aggression. Psychiatric hospitalizations are higher in noisy communities. The stress from noise also raises risk for a range of other health problems. You do sound like your stress levels are very high, and might warrant medication to help get them back down - I think it'd be a very good idea to tell your doctor how you're feeling.

An intolerance to sound, or an excessive response to sounds which wouldn't normally bother most people much, is recognised as a disorder. The causes may be physical or primarily psychological, or a bit of both. "Hyperacusis" is an abnormal sensitivity to sound, and is more likely to have a physical basis. Phonophobia (fear of sound) or misophonia (dislike of sound), are excessive reactions to sounds with an emotional association - this sounds more like what you are suffering.

I wouldn't hesitate about calling the police; you are quite within your rights and unfortunately it probably is your only recourse in this case. If they are already being evicted, then there is not much point in notifying other authorities.

You can form a bit of a buffer against the Wall of Doom by installing more soft furnishings like carpets and curtains; put some furniture against it if possible! Try earplugs (though I have to say I take them out in my sleep). If I were you, I'd use this as a motivation to take some weekends in the country and get out of the house as much as possible.

Have a look at our Stress Centre (in "balance') especially the section on managing stress.

Stay in touch and let me know how it goes.

The information provided does not constitute a diagnosis of your condition. You should consult a medical practitioner or other appropriate health care professional for a physical examination, diagnosis and formal advice. Health24 and the expert accept no responsibility or liability for any damage or personal harm you may suffer resulting from making use of this content.
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