Bedroom with a white noise machine and thin walls

Can Neighbors Hear a White Noise Machine?

The term ‘white noise’ can be confusing. After all, it does contain the word ‘noise’ in it. But it’s not what you think. White noise is a wonderful option for covering up unwanted external sounds. Buying a white noise machine is a great choice because it can play many different sounds combined together at a variety of frequencies all at once.

While it sounds like it might create quite a cacophony, it’s rather pleasing to the ear. Unlike a noise disturbance, white noise uses soothing sounds like rain falling on the leaves of trees, waves of the ocean crashing on the shore, or even fans whirling air around.

It’s a pretty brilliant concept. After all, if you have noisy neighbors, you likely don’t hear them at all on a rainy night, do you? That’s the beauty of a white noise machine. It takes away their racket and brings you peace and comfort through a soothing and comforting sound.

When you rent or live in close proximity to your neighbors, masking the sounds they make without competing by, say, turning up your stereo or watching TV equally as loud to drown it out, using white noise is a smarter way to get your own slice of peace. That’s because white noise balances the frequencies rather than making more conflicting noise.

New parents often find it mystifying that newborn babies delight in white noise sounds. Fussy babies can go to sleep rather quickly when you turn it on, making it a less intrusive noise than a crying baby at 3am that your neighbors hear through the walls.

But can they hear your white noise machine? And will it bother them? For the answers to these questions and how you can use white noise in your favor, keep reading!

What is a white noise machine?

Now that you know what white noise is, a white noise machine is one capable of producing these soothing sorts of sounds. Because we all find different ambient sounds calming, white noise machines are wonderful for their selections. You can choose a waterfall, wind rustling through the trees, gentle rain, heavy rain, and other nature sounds.

They also allow you to choose selections like ‘white noise’ or even ‘brown noise’ or ‘pink noise’ which come through higher frequencies. These can often be helpful when other sounds are disturbing you. You won’t even hear them, and isn’t that the point?

Because let’s face it…if you keep hearing your neighbor loudly talking on the phone or watching TV, or really doing anything while you’re trying to sleep, that anger boils up inside you, which is never a good thing. Neither is missing out on sleep. With a white noise machine in your corner, your noisy neighbors and other violating sounds around you will be a non-issue, allowing you to truly feel at peace.

Can neighbors hear a white noise machine?

In short, the answer is yes. Your neighbors can hear a white noise machine, but it’s not what you might think.

White noise is made when you combine many sounds of the same intensity but differing frequencies. These sounds then cover up other sounds in the background that are interfering with your sleep or relaxation time.

Most of the time, it’s not the loudness of the sounds that can shake us from a deep sleep. It’s the suddenness of them coming on. If you’ve ever sprung awake, sitting straight up in bed because of a loud noise, this is why. With constant white noise, it covers up any distracting noises. If you’re a light sleeper, you really should have gotten a white noise machine ages ago. Once you try it, you will wonder why you ever went to sleep without one.

And again, white noise machines are a blessing for new parents. The sounds white noise creates simulate what a baby hears in the womb. When babies are in their first 3 months of life outside the womb, the sudden quiet of the world around them is disconcerting. New babies need that noise. It calms them and lulls them to sleep.

But what about your neighbor? Whether you are playing white noise to keep from hearing the annoying sounds in surrounding apartments or outside in the streets, or you have a new baby in your home, that white noise can’t be fully distinguished by your neighbor.

They might hear something but it would be like having one thousand people having a conversation simultaneously. It’s not distinguishable so it creates a soothing hum, which will not disturb them.

Who else can hear your white noise machine?

Again, babies are one of the best customers of white noise machines. Perhaps they’re not ordering them themselves since they haven’t yet mastered fine motor skills, but parents are ordering white noise machines in droves simply because of how efficiently they can get a baby to go to sleep.

White noise helps condition babies to fall asleep. When they hear the sounds, it reminds them of all those loud organs inside the womb. The blood rushing by in the circulatory system, the gurgles and whooshes of sound from all the internal organs surrounding the uterus. They love this sound, but if you plan to use a white noise machine for the baby, be careful about the volume. While it is soothing, it also can be loud. Make sure you can control the volume and keep it from going to high in decibels to avoid hearing damage.

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How to Use White Noise for Baby Sleep

Wondering how you can get a baby to go to sleep simply by turning on a white noise machine? Here are a few tricks for babies, not to mention for other applicable scenarios for those without infants in the home to use a white noise machine for better sleep and unwinding.

– Keep the volume low

When it comes to babies, as mentioned, you don’t want to turn the volume too high because it can still emit decibels louder than necessary. Start it at the lowest volume you can. Turn it up slowly from there if need be. This way, you don’t cause hearing damage to your baby, or to anyone else in your home.

– Don’t put it in the crib

Nothing should ever go in the crib with a baby, especially newborns. You should place the white noise machine somewhere near the crib at a safe distance.

– Keep it on a white noise setting

Some white noise machines can play music too, making them very useful for any hour of the day. But when you’re trying to get a baby to sleep, don’t play music. It doesn’t have the same effect as white noise. Plus, if the neighbors are playing beer pong next door, your baby will wake up from the raucous whereas with white noise, they won’t.

– Experiment with the sounds

Every baby has a different experience with the tones. Just like you might find one sound more pleasing than another, so too will your baby. Sound that have a lower frequency might be most comforting.

– Students love white noise too

Whether you’re a college kid or you’re old enough to have one, a white noise machine can end your sleep problems. Sometimes, a new dorm room is just too quiet. Sometimes, roommates snore or make other noises that rouse us from sleep. A white noise machine can end the drama with a soothing backdrop, even when noise is all around you.

– Renters find peace with it

Renting space is often a noisy place. Most buildings carry sound and even the nicest of neighbors might make annoying noises that disturb you. Your upstairs neighbor could be an ER nurse on the nightshift. Or you could have tenants above you with small children that wake up without fail at 6am on a Saturday morning and run around like they’re in a marathon. With white noise, you will like your neighbors more because you won’t hear the things that drive you crazy about them.

– Creates calm away from home

A portable white noise machine can make you comfortable no matter how far from home you are. Some hotel rooms are too quiet. Others allow too much outside noise in, like drunk people trying to find their room down the hall or the perpetual ding of the elevator. And there’s the whole unfamiliarity of the place on top of that too. With a white noise machine, you’ll sleep more soundly no matter where you are.

How to block out white noise machines

While white noise machines won’t disturb your neighbors, you might want to take some soundproofing measures if and when possible to help keep the peace. After all, white noise is a brilliant tool, but you don’t want it on 24/7.

Plus, if you have a baby, you may want to engage in other activities and not hear white noise when you need to stay up to get work done, lest you fall asleep on your laptop.

Follow these tips to help soundproof your space for more effectiveness with white noise and blocking it out.

– Soundproof your walls

When you live in an apartment setting, a shared wall with your neighbor is the likely culprit for how their noise comes through. Walls in rentals are notoriously thin because it cuts costs for the builders. You can try acoustic foams and panels that are made from fiberglass to absorb the noise or add dry wall over the existing wall (preferably in 2 layers).

It’s not as complicated as it sounds. It just takes some screws to pin them in place. But these aren’t always affordable options. If money is tight or you’re worried your landlord will be upset with the modifications you’ll make when soundproofing an apartment, you can hang large canvas paintings. Plus, that will look nice too. Make sure you hang them on that shared wall and you’ll get significant noise reduction.

– Soundproof your door

Hollow core doors are another way that sound can come in. And if the door isn’t hollow, like a typical front door, you may want to look at the weather-stripping below it to see if it’s worn. Replacing that could be all that’s needed to seal the openings around the door and make it more soundproof.

But if the door is solid and the weather-stripping is good too, check around for cracks and apply sealant in any you find. Sound makes its way through the smallest spaces and by filling them up, you will discover a noticeable difference in how much quieter it is.

– Soundproof your windows

Sometimes the source of annoying sounds isn’t your neighbor, but rather, your neighborhood. If you hear unwanted sounds from the building next door, the traffic below, or even from airplanes above, try soundproofing your windows.

Again, like the doors, you’ll want to seal any cracks and gaps with sealant. If you own your property, you might want to consider investing in double-paned windows. Not only will they block out sounds but they’ll also help save you a bundle on heating and cooling. A good way to fake it until you make it is to add a layer of acrylic to your windows. It’s a little on the pricey side, but cheaper than replacing all the windows.

– Use soundproof curtains

If you take care of the walls, doors, and windows, you should notice a big difference in the soundproofing of your space. But you can take it to the next level with soundproof curtains. These are great for better sleep at night because they dampen outside sounds, plus they tend to block out unwanted light too. As an added bonus, they can add more style to your room in whatever colors you choose to match your décor.

– Soundproof your ceiling

If you have neighbors above you, the noises that can come from their footsteps can be truly irritating when you’re trying to sleep. Another problem in multi-level homes can come from children upstairs.

To solve the problem, try a drop ceiling. You add it below the existing drywall to isolate the noise. Acoustical tiles for your ceiling can also do the trick, as can another layer of drywall. The drop ceiling won’t look as nice, so to keep a harmonious look, try the tiles or drywall. You can even add an acoustical mat between the layers to keep things more quiet.

– Soundproof your floor

Downstairs noises can also enter your space through the floors. Carpeting is the best step for this. If you rent and your landlord won’t agree to carpeting, you can get decent area rugs. Add carpet padding underneath them for more soundproofing capabilities.

Rugs not only add a nice bit of quiet and soundproofing, but they also add style, much like the soundproofing curtains. It’s a great alternative if you have a place covered in tile or hardwood flooring.

Conclusion

Your neighbors can hear your white noise machine but it’s not a distinguishable or disturbing sound. Still, you can add more soundproofing to your home or rented space by performing a few soundproofing tricks. Depending on your budget and whether or not you own your space, you can find many great solutions to keeping out unwanted noises from neighbors, traffic, and even the other people you love dearly in your own home.

A white noise machine is a fantastic option to help quell noises at night, help you relax, or get babies to sleep. However, because it does create sound in decibels, you should watch the volume you turn it up to. If you find that you must turn it up so loud that it is damaging to hearing just to keep from hearing the intrusive noises around you, then you should make sure to take soundproofing measures for your home. Once you do, you can use the white noise machine to add the finishing touch for a peaceful ambience.

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