NFHiB Spotlight

Spotlight: Are we victims of our own silence?

A close family member recently said that they thought we were ‘victims of our own silence’ and after pondering on this for a good few weeks, I think they may be right.

Anyone who has had to suffer with a noisy neighbour may understand what I’m going to write about, to others, the whole idea of how you occupy your home may seem totally alien.

After moving in to our ideal home, we lived in it ‘properly’: we watched television, played music, flushed the toilet and even walked about!

Then something happened, our neighbour started having parties in the early hours: playing music (the throbbing bass beat), laughing, shouting, running up and down the stairs .

We suddenly became much more aware of the noises we could hear from our neighbour’s property (even when there wasn’t a party going on) and we realised that the walls seemed incredibly thin and inadequate. And then, we had a horrible thought, if we could hear our neighbour, they might be able to hear us too.

And so, we changed the way we lived in our home. We became very aware about the noise we made: the television was on quietly; we stopped playing music; we tip-toed around the house; we didn’t flush the toilet during the night; we didn’t run the bath after nine o’clock in the evening; we even cringed when we had visitors and they were (what we felt!) ‘loud’ - apologies to anyone who thinks this might apply to them .

We felt awful, we were so conscious of each and every noise both from our house and the neighbour’s. I became very anxious, repressed, withdrawn and stressed and ended up going to see my Doctor, who was very understanding of the whole situation. Basically the noise problem was consuming my every thought and it became very difficult to function. I had allowed my neighbour to rule the way I was living.

But now, thinking about it, because had we changed the way we were living, our neighbour would never hear us. What will they think about noise? Nothing. They will think that the walls are thick and soundproofed enough and so, they will carry on living and occupying their home as noisily as they have ever done. We are left wondering now whether we have contributed (in some way) by not being ourselves.

We are also conscious now that we may have affected our nice neighbour by being so quiet! They were used to the previous owners of our house vacuuming up to eleven o’clock at night and blaring Elvis every Sunday. They apologise to us if for some reason there’s a loud noise in their home. But, we really can’t hear anything from them that would constitute a nuisance in any way.

So, we’re changing – slowly but surely – and starting to take back control of our own noise. The idea of ‘noise perfume’ has played a big part in this and sharing suggestions on NFHiB.

We play music, OK it may be quiet by your standards, but it’s there in the background and it’s great to play your old CD’s again that you haven’t listened to for ages. If the neighbours music is playing, mine blocks theirs out – if I go outside, I can hear the neighbours music, but not mine.

We have been doing normal, everyday things in our home – enjoying having a bath later at night and even listening to music at the same time. At the start it did feel quite daring to be doing something so extravagant.

This is a change in behaviour and attitude, not retaliation and I think there’s a very important difference between the two. I have retaliated in the past and with retaliation there is always the worry that your neighbour is going to get their revenge. We are all only human after all, and when your neighbour catches you at a low ebb there can be a knee-jerk reaction. My last reaction to the neighbour’s noise was about a fortnight ago: I was woken at half past two in the morning by a “banging” headboard on our party wall along with someone attempting to be Meg Ryan aka “Sally”. Sally hasn’t been heard since.

NFHiB does not advocate retaliation in any form - but we appreciate that sometimes things do happen.

It is taking time to get used to this new way of being and thinking but without changing the way we live the situation will only get worse. Living with a noisy neighbour can completely upset your whole life. If you allow your neighbour to control the way you live, you will just end up in a downward spiral, not knowing what to do or where to turn to (apart from NFHiB of course!).

We are conscious of our nice neighbour on our other side, but they have assured us that they cannot hear anything from us. We won’t let there be a ripple effect of noise nuisance to them just because of our noisy neighbour. But if our noisy neighbour starts hearing us, all they will hear is ordinary domestic noise – and perhaps then they will realise that the walls aren’t as thick as they may have originally thought.

We are - and will remain - considerate neighbours. Our noisy one isn’t: they are still arrogant and try to do things to rile us on purpose - we just block them out, do our very best to ignore their childish behaviour and we laugh about them. Our conversations about the noisy neighbours are reducing, which is great because they’re not very exciting to talk about.

So, if you’re in a situation like we were/are, try to take back control of your own noise and please, don’t end up being a victim of your own silence.

© Copyright 2004: NFHiB. This article may not be re-produced (in full or part) in any format/media off-line or internet based, without prior permission.