"The program can be five or six times more expensive than normal windows or doors," Brown says. "Costs vary from $16,000 to $25,000. This is why I hesitate to tell people to do it themselves."
Covering Noise Up
If fighting back isn't your style and fortifying your home is beyond your budget, your best bet may be earplugs, which can cut about 30 decibels of sound--enough to bring many situations to a comfortable level, says Dr. John House, president of the House Ear Institute in Los Angeles.
The same effect can be provided by turning on a fan or air conditioner, which can mask "the annoying noise of a barking dog or the thump, thump, thump of a loud band," House says.
The aim of all these procedures is to return sound in the home to a safe, comfortable level. Neighborhood noise can be more than annoying. If it's too loud and too persistent, it can contribute to permanent hearing damage.
"The rule of thumb is if you have to raise your voice above the noise to be heard, it's too loud," House says.
"Anything over 90 decibels is potentially dangerous. Quiet conversation in a quiet room would probably be about 60 decibels. Heavy traffic noise is about 80. A power lawn mower is about 100 or 105; a helicopter about 105. Rock music concerts get to about 115 or 120. A jet airplane at takeoff 100 feet away would be about 130."
The higher the decibel level, the shorter the exposure needed to reach a dangerous level.
The danger begins at "eight hours at 90 decibels, four hours at 95, and two hours at 100 and so on," House says. "As soon as you get to 110, you're talking about a half hour's exposure. Anyone exposed to that type of noise level should wear ear protection."
Of course, noise is in the ear of the beholder. One person's tumult may be another's sweet inspiration.
"We love to say noise is unwanted sound," House says. "The neighbor's party is music to them, but not to you."
Annoying sounds from traffic, airplanes and other outdoor sources can be kept outside the home with a variety of techniques, such as insulation and double-pane windows. To quiet outdoor noises, sound-absorbing carpets, draperies and upholstered furniture can help.
Keep sound outside * Insulation in walls * Double-pane windows * Build a wall * Masking--turn on a steady sound, such as a fan or air conditioner, to drown out an irregular noise. * Weather stripping (doors and windows)
Absorb sound inside * Carpeting * Cloth materials such as sofas with padding * Draperies * Neoprene pads--put washers and dryers on pads so they don't directly touch the floor (not shown).
DR COLOR, NOISES OFF, KEN OELERICH / Los Angeles Times