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Ask Slashdot: Best Way To Block Noise In a Dorm? 561

First time accepted submitter zmitch32 writes "I live in a dorm, and I have ADHD, so every little noise distracts me. I know this annoyance isn't limited to those with ADHD, so how does everyone else block out the noise? I can't really cover my walls in soundproof foam because I live in a dorm. I can't just listen to music because I find it too interesting and just end up getting distracted by it. I use ear plugs to block out small noises, but they don't block out human voices very well at all. What do you guys/gals recommend?"
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Ask Slashdot: Best Way To Block Noise In a Dorm?

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  • by gatkinso ( 15975 ) on Thursday March 14, 2013 @07:59PM (#43177609)

    ... and Phish tapestries.

    No reason you can't put up foam and cover it with... Pink Floyd and Phish tapestries.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 14, 2013 @08:00PM (#43177627)

    Get a pair of noise canceling headphones. You don't even need an audio source, just some batteries to run them. A good pair of those will give you dead silence in all but the noisiest environments.

    • by MarcoAtWork ( 28889 ) on Thursday March 14, 2013 @08:07PM (#43177715)

      noise cancellation headphones work well for airplanes, trains, ..., I am not so sure they work very well for voices (or at least I haven't found any that do, usually they make voices even more annoying as they cut the background noise and make the voices stand out even more).

      • The active noise cancellation indeed only works for low frequencies, but noise-cancelling headphones muffle higher frequency noise by design too. I find them quite acceptable in very noisy environments, and I suspect they will work well anywhere where there's a wall between you and the noisy human anyway. If you must, feed them white noise to drown out what remains.

        • by tehcyder ( 746570 ) on Friday March 15, 2013 @05:20AM (#43180601) Journal

          If you must, feed them white noise to drown out what remains.

          As an added bonus, you'll soon be driven insane, and have a genuine illness to worry about rather than the largely imaginary First World Problem of ADHD.

        • by arth1 ( 260657 )

          The active noise cancellation indeed only works for low frequencies, but noise-cancelling headphones muffle higher frequency noise by design too.

          Almost never as active blocking, though.
          The main reason is that the higher frequencies have a shorter wavelength, and you'll need a microphone for each ear for mid-range because the sound won't hit your ears at the same phase, like deep bass will. For high frequency, you need a microphone near your ear drum - having it on each headphones isn't good enough.

          What they can do is passive blocking. But then you really need larger closed cans, which seldom have a nice flat frequency response curve, and can becom

      • I've tried them. They suck for voices. If headphones are practical, I find in ear ones like the Shure 530s block out absolutely everything even with quiet music. You don't really need the 530s, though, probably the 110s or equivalent will work fine, but IMO the 3 plane earpiece cuts out a lot of sound. If headphones aren't practical, add non-distracting background noise. I have an app on my phone, plug it into the iHome, and go to sleep to rain/wind noise if there's noise in the house I don't want to h

      • by Kozar_The_Malignant ( 738483 ) on Friday March 15, 2013 @01:30AM (#43179915)
        It helps to plug them into a sound producing source playing the aforementioned Pink Floyd and Phish, or something to your taste. Alternatively, regular speakers playing Wayne Newton or Lawrence Welk will empty your room and leave you in peace (once you build up immunity.) Also joining in the aforementioned bong hits will help also. It IS college.
    • Or White Noise (Score:5, Interesting)

      by alexander_686 ( 957440 ) on Thursday March 14, 2013 @08:08PM (#43177733)

      Good noise canceling headphones are expensive. Another, cheaper, alternative is to get a white noise generator. I know some people who swear by it. Personally I find it distracting, but each to their own.

      • by BoRegardless ( 721219 ) on Thursday March 14, 2013 @09:18PM (#43178467)

        Decades back I sat in a large egg shaped shell with a small opening with a padded interior you could sit in with stereo speakers in it.

        Whether it was music or white noise, once you were in the chair almost all the extraneous noise in the room just disappeared.

        Even someone speaking right in front of the opening was difficult to hear.

        • The essence of this is by far the best idea here. Build a sound booth. Whether it's egg-shaped or a tardis-shaped box, it's doable and can be very quiet. Make sure there's a window so you can see the fire alarm, though.

      • Re:Or White Noise (Score:5, Informative)

        by Wizarth ( 785742 ) on Thursday March 14, 2013 @09:32PM (#43178579) Homepage

        I'm not a fan of white noise, but at various times and moods I've found other noise types (pink and brown in particular) to be effective. I've used [] in the past as the generator - combined with a set of good headphones, it will block out most sound.

        Another alternative I use is orchestral music - specifically, no vocals. This makes it less attention grabbing. But I can't use it when I am trying to be creative/problem solving, for some reason.

    • by rworne ( 538610 )

      Not quite silence. I have the Bose (I know, I know) noise canceling headphones and they work great for their intended purpose - cutting out noise. They do not totally cut out voices though - but people in the next room, A/C noise, etc. should be silenced.

      Do those rainfall, wind, cricket and water noise generators have headphone jacks? If they do, using one with these headphones should do the trick shutting out the noisy outside world.

    • by dragonhunter21 ( 1815102 ) on Thursday March 14, 2013 @08:15PM (#43177825) Journal

      Might not even need noise cancellation- a good pair of aviation headphones work great. They're designed to cut down 100db+ of aircraft engine noise into a low, dull roar. They work wonders, and you can get a decent pair for ~$100. Plus, the headset part operates on a standard 1/4in connector that's easily converted to 3.5mm, so you can listen to music, white noise, or an audiobook through them if you need to.

    • by B'Trey ( 111263 )

      NC headphones help but by themselves won't block out everything. Get some noise-cancelling headphones and play music - just don't play music you like. Find something you don't completely hate but that really doesn't float your boat. Something without vocals is preferable. You can grab all sorts of classical, big band, early jazz ensembles, etc. for free. It's not going to grab your attention and distract you like music you really like, but it will block out the sound around you. At least, that works f

    • by Thangodin ( 177516 ) <.ac.ocitapmys. .ta. .ratnele.> on Thursday March 14, 2013 @10:09PM (#43178829) Homepage

      Actually, don't give up on music quite yet. Music with lyrics will distract you--Tom Waits, Bob Dylan, or Lou Reed would take all of your attention. But a lot of techno can actually function as white noise (which is why a lot of coders in a busy office swear by it)--the beat gives you an adrenaline boost while the content vanishes. Bach and other forms of baroque music can also serve the same function; it fades into the background but has a calming effect, and many people consider it the sound of ordered thought.

  • White Noise (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dintech ( 998802 ) on Thursday March 14, 2013 @08:00PM (#43177629)
    Use headphones with whitenoise. Something like a waterfall []
    • Re:White Noise (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 14, 2013 @08:14PM (#43177813) is an excellent white/pink/brown noise generator.

    • Re:White Noise (Score:5, Interesting)

      by multiben ( 1916126 ) on Thursday March 14, 2013 @08:17PM (#43177873)
      Yes, this ^^^. There are several guys in my office (we are propeller heads, so it's ok to be weird) who have closed headphones on with white noise playing. It is a well known technique for concentrating because it creates a baseline background noise which your brain tunes out quite quickly but still masks irregular noises.

      Some people are mentioning noise cancelling headphones. In my opinion these won't work for your purposes as they are not well suited for cancelling voices. They work great for filtering out constant predictable frequencies.
    • Re:White Noise (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Immerman ( 2627577 ) on Thursday March 14, 2013 @08:49PM (#43178151)

      Seconded, but without the headphones. I hate to be cut off from my acoustic environment even more than I dislike the constant distraction, so I've got an old mp3 player and a set of PC speakers that play nature sounds pretty much 24-7 (looping one track which I change to suit my mood and ambient noise). Amazon has a pretty good selection though there's a fair amount of crap mixed in. Just search their mp3s for the desired type and sort longest-first to find many hour-plus recordings. Much shorter than that and I find after a while I start to memorize the patterns after a few months and the illusion is broken. Water is a good one - waterfalls, creeks, or waves. I found waves on a gravel beach (whooshing rather than thrumming or hissing against rocks or sand) particularly good for masking traffic and fan noise. Wind, rain, and fire can all be nice as well, I'm building a collection of several of each as I find particularly pleasing ones.

      Birdsong is also good, tends to ease stress (tells your subconscious that there's no predators nearby), but you need to find the right one. I found Kid in the Forest provided a wonderfully deep sound-scape and avoided the cacophony that plagues many recordings. The closest I've found to sitting in the woods while still being indoors.

      I've also developed a fondness for foreign-language music - you get a flow of human voice which most people find soothing and which nicely drowns out half-heard conversations, but it's completely incomprehensible so your mind doesn't latch on to it. And unlike classical and other dedicated instrumental compositions the music itself tends to be relatively simplistic and uninteresting as well.

    • by shoemilk ( 1008173 ) on Thursday March 14, 2013 @08:58PM (#43178255) Journal
      Buy this and move are the only things people have been suggesting. One guy did have interesting advice about the somatic voice processing center of the brain, but I can't believe not a single person has suggested that you leave your room, walk across campus and go to the freaking library. Need a computer? There are computer labs everywhere, too. Seriously, I thought this was one of the worst ask slasdots and expected half the answers to be "Go to the f-ing library". But no one?! let me say it then.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 14, 2013 @10:11PM (#43178841)

        Man, have you tried masturbating in a library? It's hard.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by NandGate1 ( 2611447 )
        Unfortunately many university libraries are no longer the quiet places to study that they once were. In an attempt to remain relevant, they're doing all kinds of things that make them less than ideal study environments. But, you can certainly try. You might find a quiet corner somewhere.
  • EAR PLUGS (Score:3, Insightful)

    by iCEBaLM ( 34905 ) <icebalm@ice[ ] ['bal' in gap]> on Thursday March 14, 2013 @08:01PM (#43177649)


  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 14, 2013 @08:03PM (#43177667)

    Smoke weed. Lots and lots of weed.

  • by MarcoAtWork ( 28889 ) on Thursday March 14, 2013 @08:04PM (#43177677)

    as the subject says, if 'soundproof foam' existed folks building recording studios, vocal booths, practice rooms and so on would have a lot less issues!

    As somebody that is also easily annoyed by noises and especially by people talking, the only things I can suggest are noise isolation headphones and a suitable source of noise (pink noise or something like raindrops, running water, etc.), the noise isolation headphones to lower the outside noise as much as possible, and the pink noise to mask it (otherwise you'd have to have the volume in your headphones way too loud).

    You will find that pink noise or water noise masks voices pretty well if in tandem with the above, I sometimes even have to use isolation headphones (similar to the headphones that pit crews use on racing tracks) AND foam earplugs AND [] (with thunder disabled) to be able to concentrate in my current work environment.

  • odd technique (Score:5, Interesting)

    by slashmydots ( 2189826 ) on Thursday March 14, 2013 @08:05PM (#43177687)
    With whatever you're doing, silently use your internal somatic voice processing system in your brain to process the audio of counting from one to ten (basically process it as if you were going to say it, just never move your mouth). When it combines with whatever else you're doing, it will use up all that part of your brain's resources and you won't be able to hear/process any sounds around you. It's a technique that I learned very quickly when learning to speed read. It works very, very well.
  • Move (Score:5, Informative)

    by Alex Pennace ( 27488 ) <> on Thursday March 14, 2013 @08:06PM (#43177707) Homepage

    Move. I mean that seriously. Not all dorms are alike, and chances are there is a quieter room available. You will have to approach your student services office or similar about your situation, and bring documentation. They may not be able to accommodate you entirely but they may find some arrangement that would be of benefit. For example, they may make a triple in a quiet dorm into a double with a known-quiet roommate.

    If you want further information, give us the name of the school. Maybe someone here knows about a quieter dorm on your campus.

    • I'd agree with moving, though prior to doing so, I'd suggest simply investigating the cause of the noise and seeing if anything can be done to either eliminate or mitigate it via other techniques. If the problem is a noisy roommate, suitemate, or neighbor, addressing it directly with them or one of your resident advisors will oftentimes do the trick. My second year in the dorms, I was able to address an issue where my upstairs neighbor kept leaving for the weekend while leaving his subwoofer pounding to som

    • Re:Move (Score:5, Informative)

      by RyoShin ( 610051 ) <(tukaro) (at) (> on Thursday March 14, 2013 @08:49PM (#43178147) Homepage Journal

      You're making the assumption that the submitter has a choice in the matter; this may not be the case. The college I went to had one set of dorms (set up in an "8" format with two middle areas no one ever used) and all freshmen were required to live it in it unless they lived within a certain mile range of the campus. Even if we had been able to change rooms (which seemed possible, but only for when you returned from work term), you wouldn't notice much of a change unless you went from one extreme end of the dorms to the other.

      Now, if they go to a state or large and popular college/uni, they might have options.

      As to submitter, is this self-diagnosed ADHD or do you have a clinical diagnoses?

      If clinical: are you taking medication to help with it? If so, perhaps its worth talking to your provider about a change in prescription/dose. If you're not taking meds, perhaps talking with your doctor or a school counselor and trying some might be helpful. Even if you could sound-proof your room, you're going to get tons of distractions all over college, so it's something to look into.

      If self-diagnosed: Talk to a college counselor (my small one had two, though it could be hard to get ahold of them) or doctor if you don't have your own to get references to those who can officially diagnose you. This will make your college stay far, far easier. They can help you to control it, maybe do some of the aforementioned medication.

      In either case, distractions like the ones you mention are a part of life, and you will have situations where you will be completely unable to use foam, ear plugs, white noise through headphones, or what have you, so working now to deal with these distractions instead of just trying to block them out is in your interest. (I know nothing about ADHD except the very general notion, which is another good reason to talk to university counselors (which can be cheap or free) or doctors.)

      • Re:Move (Score:4, Informative)

        by Sarten-X ( 1102295 ) on Thursday March 14, 2013 @10:12PM (#43178851) Homepage

        I know much about ADHD, having been clinically diagnosed quite a while ago. You're absolutely correct.

        Moving around my college's dorms also wouldn't help, as I did it every year with no real difference in noise level. Sure, there were halls that claimed to be "academically oriented" and enforced more quiet hours each night... but that enforcement only moved as quickly as the advisor could run through the hall after the drunks passing through.

        Medication is a godsend. It's so nice to be able to experience life without the constant distractions, multiple trains of thought, and forgetting important things. That said, medication is hell. While medicated, I could feel my mind being limited. I now describe it as having a multicore processor running only a single-threaded program. I can tell that there are still more thoughts in my head, but I can't access them. I'm forced to stay focused, whether I want to or not.

        Still, being on medication for a few years was helpful, until the side effects were overwhelming and I had to stop. I now know what "normal" feels like, and I can tell when I'm getting a little too distracted to focus on work. Then I have to take a break, get some coffee (self-medicating with caffeine, which is just mild enough to help a bit without the discomfort), and spend a few minutes meditating. Just a few relaxing breaths, listening to the distractions around me, and allowing myself to get used to the noises and distractions, so they're less intrusive. Then I can work.

    • Move. I mean that seriously. Not all dorms are alike, and chances are there is a quieter room available. You will have to approach your student services office or similar about your situation, and bring documentation. They may not be able to accommodate you entirely but they may find some arrangement that would be of benefit. For example, they may make a triple in a quiet dorm into a double with a known-quiet roommate.

      If you want further information, give us the name of the school. Maybe someone here knows about a quieter dorm on your campus.

      We had designated quiet dorms on my campus; of the 7 campuses I've attended, taught at, or attended conferences at, all 7 had designated quiet dorms. Getting in may, however, take effort.

      You will also be surprised how far a doctors note will go, even if you are not on medication, to granting exceptions to rules.

      For example, I had a friend with cystic acne due to in-grown hairs, and with a prescription from a Dr., he was permitted to grow a beard at BYU, where the only people allowed to have beards are the

  • by CyberSnyder ( 8122 ) on Thursday March 14, 2013 @08:06PM (#43177713)

    I don't think it's possible to block all the noise in a dorm unless you have designated quiet dorms.

  • I don't have ADHD, but I do have High Functioning Autism, and I had the same problem in college, even though I wasn't diagnosed yet (and wouldn't be for another 10 years).

    The two solutions for me: A white noise generator to drown out the sound next door, and a "mix tape" of my most boring songs for when I couldn't stand the white noise anymore. Would be a playlist without shuffle now, of course, but MP3 players didn't exist when I was in college. Once your brain gets used to the order of songs, say about

  • In the future I guess it will be just a matter of switching on an active noise control device to make your room silent, but since so far the technology is only easily applied to headphones, how about a nice pair of those? You don't have to listen to music. You just have to find a pair that is very comfortable to wear and then play whatever low-volume sounds of nature (since silence on noise canceling headphones feels weird for some people).
    If you don't like the idea, I would also try different earplugs. I m

  • REAL earplugs (Score:5, Insightful)

    by RedLeg ( 22564 ) on Thursday March 14, 2013 @08:09PM (#43177745) Journal
    I'm guessing you've tried the cheapass foam plugs....

    First (cheapest) option is to look for triple-flange earplugs. Look at a sporting goods store in the firearms department.

    If that doesn't work for you, look into getting custom molded plugs made. I have a set from my time as a competitive shooter, and when they are in, and correctly seated, I cannot hear ANYTHING, even though I can feel the noise in many cases. For voices and random dorm noise, that should be sufficient.

    Another option is a set of noise canceling headphones. Just don't feed them any input and they will still reduce ambient noise. I would recommend you borrow a set from a friend before investing, as the best are "over the ear" types, and they tend to create a sensation of pressure in your ears. Some folks find that uncomfortable.

    Hope this helps......

    Red (retired Field Artillery Officer)

    • +1 on real ear plugs. I have trouble sleeping, and I also have a woodworking shop. The best over ear hearing protection I have (intended for shooting) is a pale shade of something like these: []
      You want something like the dB Sleepers, non-vented (first on the page). They take a while to get used to (like, 2 or 3 weeks of using them, but unable to go the whole night because of discomfort), but once you do get used to them the difference is HUGE.
      The problem with most

  • by Random2 ( 1412773 ) on Thursday March 14, 2013 @08:09PM (#43177747) Journal
    Listen to a set of music until it's nearly worn-out, and use that as your noise-cancellation. For example, I have a set of ~700 songs that I've listened to almost daily for the last 5 years and I now know most of them down to the chord progressions. They've become so familiar that, while I still enjoy them, there's nothing 'new' there to distract me from work. This counts double for strictly instrumental songs, they provide even less distraction by lacking words to interpret and grab attention.

    I imagine there'll be recommendations for things like noise cancelling headphones and such but I find they tend to make it worse; largely because they leave my mind too idle and I start looking around and get distracted again. Having the 'white noise music' keeps the wandering parts of my mind occupied so the rest of it can focus on the task at hand.
    • by gman003 ( 1693318 ) on Thursday March 14, 2013 @10:13PM (#43178857)

      Suggestion for music: video game soundtracks. It's generally designed to be undistracting, and something you can listen to over and over again.

      Best place to start would probably be PS1/N64 games. Too limited for any significant vocals (out of the 993 songs I have from that generation, only five have vocals, and two of them are in Latin), but tends to be more cinematic and slow than the often fast-paced, baroque stuff of earlier consoles. Plus, if you're in a college dorm now, you likely grew up playing those games, so you get some nostalgia.

  • I'm guessing by "music" you mean stuff with lyrics -- hence your comment about human voices. I have ADHD too and here's my advice.

    My personal favorite for getting work done is Rodrigo y Gabriela's first album, but if you're not into that sort of thing, there's also classical, post-punk (Godspeed/Turtles), ambient (Brian Eno), orchestral video game music (Nobuo Uematsu) etc etc. If music fails, white noise may work but has the issue of your brain wanting to pay more attention to the noise you're trying to

  • Get some better quality earplugs.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I use foam earplugs with Bose QuietComfort 15 Acoustic Noise Cancelling headphones which cover the entire ear (rather than just sitting on top of them). I then use a white noise app on my phone called SimplyNoise. It offers a few options for types of white noise; I find brown noise works the best. This combination blocked out three screaming babies on a recent overnight flight.

    That said, why are you studying in the dorm if it's too noisy/distracting for you? Go to a library. With a little exploring, you wil

  • I know the problem you describe well.

    White noise (I actually prefer pink noise with a rolloff at higher frequencies) works well for me. Several people have posted links to mp3s of rain, surf and such.

    I personally found that Tangerine Dream, Kitaro, and the like were quite good for studying and covering distractions, but it may vary for you or still be too distracting.

  • Library (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 14, 2013 @08:16PM (#43177847)

    Do what everyone else who lives in a dorm does when they need quiet. Go to the library.

  • lots of good suggestions here, including maybe getting a different dorm.
    i think i recall there being a 'quiet' dorm at UCSC. ("live here if your main interest in being at college is .. academics", i guess)

    but mostly the suggestions seem to be either Block The Sound or Drown The Sound In Noise.

    i'd highly recommend going for the former before the latter, for the kinda obvious reason of hearing damage.
    i'm not an expert, but my tinnitus gives me a gut feeling that chronic exposure to even background-level noise

  • []

    Goofy but they work and are extremely reliable. They are especially good at masking talking and music.

  • Ear Buds (Score:5, Funny)

    by Greyfox ( 87712 ) on Thursday March 14, 2013 @08:21PM (#43177913) Homepage Journal
    Ear Buds, MP3 collection.

    If you find music too distracting, just put the ear buds in and turn the device WAY up for a while. After a while you'll have completely destroyed your hearing. Problem solved! You're welcome!

  • by Harvey Manfrenjenson ( 1610637 ) on Thursday March 14, 2013 @08:23PM (#43177925)

    The best solution: Foam earplugs, the kind you can buy at a drugstore that are rated for 29 decibels (or something similar), that you wad up and stick well into your ear canal. Combined with a decent pair of headphones (ideally wireless) playing the sounds of a rainstorm.

    Actually any white-noise-like sound will work, including actual white noise, a radio tuned to static, crashing waves, etc. For a month or two, I used the Fripp/Eno ambient tune "Wind On Water" playing on an endless loop. Watch your decibel levels-- it doesn't need to be played loud to work.

    This setup will drown out the fucking zombie apocalypse.


  • I live in a dorm, and I have ADHD

    Self diagnosed or professionally diagnosed?

  • If your school anticipated the problem, you can find the solution. First, see if your dorm has a segregated study area. At the school I went to, that study area was in the basement, down the hall from the laundry room -- the idea was that you should start some clothes washing, study, dry, study, fold, and be done. The room was soundproofed...but the lack of echo and noise unnerved some people, but I loved it. Also, there was a lounge in my dorm where -- most of the time -- you could find peace and quiet
  • All you need is competing noise. Get a large fan and turn it up, most of the outside noises will be drowned out.

    Also, a website like [] helps me a lot when I find myself wandering off into my thoughts.

    If you listen to music and the voices are too distracting, just listen to good movie scores, classical soundtracks, or something orchestra based like [] or []

  • I used classical music as a white noise generator. I can't concentrate when listening to music with lyrics, but I needed something to overwhelm the noise. The nice thing is that you get cultured in the process. You can get the 100 best works of ___ for relatively cheap.
  • by owlnation ( 858981 ) on Thursday March 14, 2013 @08:41PM (#43178073)
    ... yet no-one has suggested duct tape yet?

    There's many ways duct tape can solve this. Some of them are probably even legal.
  • How about white (or pink) noise?

  • Probably not a sensible idea, but I think I have often wonderd if a microphone an op-amp and a speaker could be employed to cancel out noise. Seems like it should work but the delay may just make it worse.

    The circuit should be easy to but together though all you need is a a couple of resistors a decent modern op-amp (not a 741), somthing with a decent BW (~70dB) and a decent DR should do it. and a couple of a half decent resitors. the PSU may be more difficult you need to keep noise down and ensure you c

  • An old sweat sock in your roommate's mouth can reduce snoring. It either softens the snoring or will keep your roommate up at night in fear of you stuffing another old sock in his mouth thus allowing you to get some sleep.
  • You're in college. Go have fun. Get out of your room.

  • Get the sort of ear protection that people who work around power stations, airports and other places with ear-damaging levels of noise wear. If its good enough to block out the noise of a jet engine, it should be good enough to block out dorm room noise.

  • by labnet ( 457441 ) on Thursday March 14, 2013 @09:01PM (#43178283)

    Suck all the air out of the room. Problem Solved!

  • by Beeftopia ( 1846720 ) on Thursday March 14, 2013 @09:13PM (#43178411)

    This is how I dealt with the problem. If you combine both solutions, it'll be super quiet but I found just the headsets to be enough - usually:

    1) Foam ear plugs:
    1a) The foam earplugs have a trick. You have to roll them between your fingers so they become long and thin. Then put them into deep into your ear (not too deep). They'll expand and provide a good seal. Don't pull them out quickly because of the seal. It can hurt your ear drum. Pull them out slowly.
    1b) Cost: Maybe 5 dollars.
    1c) How to correctly put in foam earplugs []. Can't just shove them in. They don't work that way.
    1d) It says they're to be used only once. I use mine multiple times and put them in the case that usually comes with them. You can wash them if you want.
    1e) Ear plugs from Bass Pro Shops. [] You can go to Dick's or whatever sporting goods store you'd like.

    2) Shooting headsets: Put these over your ears after you put in your earplugs:
    2a) Cost: Not too expense, like 30-50 dollars.
    2b) []
    2c) Amazon search []

    3) The best book on how to study I ever read: "College Study Skills" by Deanna L. Van Blerkom []. Side note - When I was in school some *cough* years ago, this book was a fraction of the 2013 price. It is unreal how much they gouge students nowadays. Unreal. It was like 20 or 30 bucks back then, and like 110 bucks today. Unreal.

    Don't go crazy with the headsets. They're a good investment but you don't need the microphones or anything else. Just get a basic set and save yourself some money. A high decibel rating from a reputable company. Look on Amazon for the reviews.

  • Get a set of in ear plugs and then put a set of over the head muffs on.

    Alternately, combine the white noise with ear buds and over the head muffs. You'll find you can lower the volume considerably to make it more relaxing.

  • by rwhealey ( 957969 ) on Thursday March 14, 2013 @09:27PM (#43178539)
    The only thing "soundproof foam" is good for is burning down the building and killing everyone in it. There is no such thing as "soundproof foam."

    There are basically two ways airborne sound travels between two rooms: 1) air leaks between the rooms. 2) through a mechanism where the sound wiggles the wall surface on one side, which wiggles the surface on the other side and re-transmits the sound back into the air.

    You can stop air leaks with attention to detail during construction - the partitions should go all the way up to the ceiling, and the floor and ceiling joints should be caulked. The only way to stop the second problem is making the wall more difficult to wiggle - or increasing it's mass. Most modern dormitories have moved away from concrete and concrete block construction which is much better at stopping sound to a gypsum wall board on metal stud construction, which is lighter and therefore transmits sound much better.

    Unless you want to pour a new 6" concrete wall or line the room in thick lead, you are unlikely to be able to stop the sound transmission. Having maintenance seal the door and windows better may help if there is a leak problem. You can tell by listening around the door. If the sound is much louder near the bottom of the door than elsewhere in the room, you've found the leak.

    The best way to approach this problem is to go to audiologist and get fitted for custom earplugs. They will make a mold of your ear and send it to a company like []. You can select the filter up to a maximum of -25dB over a much more even bandwidth than cheap earplugs. It will likely solve the problem without introducing masking noise willy-nilly.

    That being said, a loudspeaker playing white or pink noise could mask the problem, if you don't mind listening to it. I dislike constant noise, but that would be up to you.

    If you're hearing "thumping" of footsteps or feeling the noise problem, that's a different ballgame: structure borne transmission. Buy your upstairs neighbors a thick rug so they don't impact the floor as hard or replace the ceiling with something more rigid...

  • I know you've already tried plugs, but try this. Go to a gun store or a well equipped department store. Buy a good set of plugs, the kind that form to your ears. *also* buy a set of earmuff style hearing protection as used by shooters. Wear the muffs over the plugs. Unless you get distracted by your own heartbeat or the sound of your tinnitus, that should do it for you.

    Alternate solution: I have a pair of on-ear noise cancelling headphones. I observe that they work even when I'm not listening to musi

  • Seal your Door (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Jah-Wren Ryel ( 80510 ) on Thursday March 14, 2013 @10:36PM (#43179023)

    A lot of dorms are made out of cement, and cement is excellent for attenuating sound. But if your door doesn't close tight, then it won't make much difference.

    You want to plug up every crack around the door with the most dense material you can find. Look for rubber gasket type stuff you can put in the doorjamb itself to make a tight seal and rubber "lips" you can put on the bottom to seal the crack underneath. Look for the same kind of door-sealing products meant to save energy by stopping cold air from getting in to your house. Also, If your door has a hole in it - like vents - cover them up with somethin thick and dense.

    If your door is a light-weight metal or hollow-core wood door, you can try attaching heavy duty rubber sheets to the door itself. There are even some products mostly sold for automotive sound-proofing that are basically asphalt on a roll - Dynamat is one brand although it is expensive. You might just use tar-paper from the hardware store. Either way density is key, forget about fluffy foam, the more dense you can make your door the less sound will get through. Just make sure whatever you use won't out-gas into your room and give you cancer.

  • by Wycliffe ( 116160 ) on Thursday March 14, 2013 @10:44PM (#43179079) Homepage

    I had a roommate who would listen to music in a language he didn't understand when
    he studied. It easily blocked out any voices and wasn't distracting as it was in a
    different language so there was nothing to grab his attention. Probably more
    effective than white-noise or instrumental as it is still the human voice. If you get
    really desperate, try multiple streams of foreign voices at the same time.

  • LIBRARY (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Lawrence_Bird ( 67278 ) on Thursday March 14, 2013 @11:56PM (#43179509) Homepage

    I mean come on.. how hard is it to find a quiet place deep in the fucking stacks?

  • by Gribflex ( 177733 ) on Friday March 15, 2013 @12:43AM (#43179747) Homepage

    I've run into this a lot; in dorms, in a house with other mates from uni, at work, and so on.
    Here are some things that work for me:

      - If you can afford it, noise canceling headphones are awesome. If you put yourself in a quiet place, they help a huge amount. Expensive though.
      - Always have ear plugs in your bag. They are small, and you can use them in a pinch. Super good for exam situations where things are quiet anyway and you just want to block out that guy who keeps clicking his pen.
      - Go to a hardware store, and find the ear protection section. For 20-40$ you should be able to find industrial grade ear protection. This works really, really well; and lasts longer than ear plugs. These are more effective than bose noise canceling headphones, but less comfy and won't play music.

    Note that all of the above will only lessen the sounds around you; if you are already in a loud place, it won't make it silent. Which leads me to my next piece of advice:

    Go somewhere else. I still have to do this to this day. There is a quiet, distraction free place somewhere on campus where you can go. You have to find it though. I ended up with a collection of about 6 places that were generally super quiet.
    You'll also want to find places that are distraction free in other ways too (eg. a desk in a basement at the end of a hall; there was nothing there but what I brought with me, and very few people ever came by). Try to avoid populous study areas; there are other distractions there. Extra good if you can find somewhere that's not too far from a toilet for those long study sessions. If I had to walk too far to find a bathroom, it would take me 10 minutes to get there, and 90 to get back on account of interesting everything.

    Music that you can't process. In my case it was chinese pop music, or very loud punk rock. Experiment with different things, you'll probably find something that your brain considers passive background noise. Note that it's not enough to simply change the language or find something without words. I'll happily hum along to classical, and I have no problem singing along to bhangra music. I'd suggest looking at pop music from other cultures, or genre's that are known to be loud and noisy.

    Watch the chemicals. Getting the right amount of caffeine is a tricky balance. Obviously it keeps you awake, which is a plus. But having a hit can help sharpen your mind to the work at hand a little bit. Having too much will end up being a huge distraction.

    Have a refocus point. Eventually you're mind is going to wander, I found it was helpful to have something that brought it back. Some people use excercise, or a smoke break for this. For me, I printed a little sign that I would stick at eye level that read simple "GRADUATE". Whenever my mind went, this little sign would act as a mental kick in the pants. Most times I could pull it together and get back to the task at hand. Maybe after a few breathes, or something.

    Know when to quit. If it's just not working; stop. Take a break (ideally, a limited break; like having no more than three printed sheets of sudoku in your bag), or just switch tasks and come back in a bit.

  • by Sir Holo ( 531007 ) on Friday March 15, 2013 @01:11AM (#43179853)
    Your solution is almost in-hand!

    I long-ago created a solution that you will find useful, although created for my own self at the time, in a similar situation.

    Play the MP3 "Gray-brown noise.mp3," found at the following public link, on repeat: []

    You see, the problem with noise-cancelling headphones is that they cancel repetetive noises. That results in a situation in which human conversation is easier to hear. For an ADHD, ithat's backwards. Right? You need a mask.

    In reality, what you want to do is to raise the background level of ambient noise across the entire frequency spectrum, to obscure incidental noises (talking, music, etc.). Play my MP3. Whether you use headphones or speakers, your brain will get used to the monotonous (patternless) broad-band "noise," and will quickly adapt to a base level of "even" noise, so that it will ignore many transients (talking, music, etc.).

    I call it gray-brown noise because, well, actually, just see Wikipedia. Anyways, gray noise is equalized to have the same perceived-energy-intensity across all of the octaves of the human range of hearing. So, unlike white noise, which is harsh and high-pitched, this MP3 is gray––it is even. Second, I used a Brownian noise-generator to generate the original 5-miunute sound file. (See Wikipedia, but basically Brownian=random walk vs random distribution of frequency energies––>more natural.) It is gray for me because I have adjusted the equalization to match the response of my over-earbuds (from Brookstone) and my iPod. To attain gray, you may have to play with your equalizer. (But hey, even playing this MP3 " straight" totally kills TONS of distracting ambient noise, as you will easily hear. So, don't sweat the perfection of the "gray" part).

    You will have to adjust the equalization to your own computer speakers, or to your chosen type of earphones, to achieve the optimal gray. But, after that, you will be in heaven.

    Once adjustments are done, you're set; your brain will quickly get bored of the pattern-less "noise," letting you ignore any spurious auditory input, and just get to work. A bonus is that it covers up lots of ambient and transient noises. That is, it raises the signal floor,the floor above which your brain says, "Hey, what's that noise all about?!?

    People can blather, play music, and so on, but if you have your "WALL OF GRAY-BROWN NOISE PRESSURE" up in defense, then you are golden. The BONUS is that NO ONE really hears it. It's background to them; sounds like an airplane engine from inside the cabine). :) Add to that the straight blockage that a pair of earlpugs (from an Audioogist) will provide you, and you will be completely oblivious to all that is around you.

    Sir Holo

    Any thanks from you or other ADHDs (etc.) will make me feel good, knowing that I have helped someone. Feel free to re-post the (unedited) MP3 anywhere (with credit included in meta-data). (

  • by morgauxo ( 974071 ) on Friday March 15, 2013 @08:42AM (#43181415)

    Sorry, but your best bets are to get an apartment or just get used to it. If you can't get used to it then get an apartment. Personally, when I was in the dorms I loved it. The background noise was just right for me. If I went where it was too quiet I felt like I was disconnected, missing something and then my mind would wander. It was very hard to adjust to leaving the dorms actually. For you... maybe the opposite is true.

  • learn "mindfullness" (Score:4, Interesting)

    by peter303 ( 12292 ) on Friday March 15, 2013 @09:38AM (#43181841)
    A technique of eastern cultural temperment akin to "dont sweat the small stuff". It is a kind of meditation.

    If the noise is loud enough to damage hearing, then you need to physically protect your ears.

Nothing makes a person more productive than the last minute.