Photograph of  grass growing indoors in this unusual homeHealth, Neurological, and Psychologically-Related Noise Complaints

  • HEALTH-RELATED NOISE PERCEPTION - CONTENTS: health & hearing-related complaints about building & house noises: sources of medically- or pshycologicvally, or hearing-disability-related noise issues & strategies for dealing with them.
  • POST a QUESTION or READ FAQs about diagnosing the source and finding the cure for noises or sounds in or around buildings and their systems
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Health & hearing noise complaints: building noise troubleshooting: Information is provided about auditory (hearing), visual, historic, medical, or other clues of building condition that explain various sounds heard in buildings.

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Health, Neurological, and Psychologically-Related Noise Complaints in buildings

Sleep Mate white noise generator (C) Daniel Friedman

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Here we provide a summary of key points you should consider.

Health related noise and apparent noise sources can involve common aging or hearing disorders, dementia, or other serious medical conditions.

  • Normal aging of people is often accompanied by changes in hearing and hearing perception. Neurological disorders, psychological disorders, or possibly other serious medical conditions can cause a perception of noise in buildings that can be very disturbing to the person suffering from these conditions.
  • Dementia can cause a perception of noise in buildings that can be very disturbing to the person suffering from these conditions.

    Voices & Music: We recently investigated a case in which an elderly person in a Florida home had complained of loud voices and loud music for more than a year. Because it is normal for any individual's mind to find an apparently rational explanation for sensations that appear "real", the complainant was certain that the noise problem rested with her next door neighbor.

    Consistent playing of the same song: The complaint that a particular musical song or work is repeated may be a clue suggesting that hearing continuous music may be related to an illness or dementia associated with aging.

    When multiple locations produce the same noise complaint: But reports from family members confirmed that their mother had the same complaints in two other cities, one in a hotel, another in a private home. In those cases family members were certain that the sounds were not actually occurring. We recommended a medical consult. -DF

    Variations in acuteness of hearing: We consulted in a different building noise complaint that was voiced by just one occupant of several in a home. Our client had consulted with his physician who did not find a medical cause for a hearing disorder. Before assuming that we could not help this individual we considered that because people's hearing sensitivity varies widely, together we needed to confirm that others did nor did not hear noises in the building. --DF

    Noise-related stress aggravates existing disorders: "Although no one would say that noise by itself brings on mental illness, there is evidence that noise-related stress can aggravate already existing emotional disorders. Research in the United States and England points to higher rates of admission to psychiatric hospitals among people living close to airports. And studies of several industries show that prolonged noise exposure may lead to a larger number of psychological problems among workers." - "Noise, A Health Problem", US EPA,
  • Hearing disorders and even hearing aid malfunctions can cause a perception of noise in buildings that can be very disturbing to the person suffering from these conditions.


    We recently investigated another mysterious music complaint involving the author's brother in law who wears hearing aids that incorporate a blue-tooth wireless function to permit easy use of a cell phone. But our brother-in-law began hearing music, intermittently. The problem was traced to his iPod that had been left on and transmitting music to his hearing aids. --DF
  • Sources of Mysterious Music Heard Indoors: check the radio

    In addition to dementia that can manifest as delusional "hearing" of music, singing ("the Stars and Stripes forever, 24-hours a day"), and our brother-in-law's hearing aid tuning in to his iPod, we recently traces a very low-volume but continuous music complaint to a clock radio alarm that had been set to "music" at very low volume.

    It can be helpful in tracking down indoor music complaints if you enlist the aid of one or more people who have very good hearing. Start where the music noise complaint was reported, and provided that the person with acute hearing can observe the sound, trace it directionally to it's source, perhaps first checking radios, TVs, and portable music players.
  • Sleep disturbance and noise:

    "Human response to noise before and during sleep varies widely among age groups. The elderly and the sick are particularly sensitive to disruptive noise. Compared to young people, the elderly are more easily awakened by noise and, once awake, have more difficulty returning to sleep. As a group, the elderly require special protection from the noises that interfere with their sleep". - "Noise, A Health Problem", US EPA,

    Night Time Hissing Sounds: Here is an example sleep disturbance report:

    I am a senior citizen (68) living alone, here in the Poconos in Pike County. Please note, I do not have tinnitis For the last 4 years, I have been suffering with a hissing sound in my house. I tried to locate sound engineers, listening devices and the like but, have not been successful.

    This noise always takes place in the hours between 9:00PM and 6:00AM and sometimes during the daylight hours. I have a fairly simple house with a sump pump which I just replaced, and a septic (grinder pump) that is approximately 24 yrs old. I am at my wits end and haven't had a decent night's sleep in all this time. Short of having someone spend the night at my house, I don't know what to do anymore. It is very difficult to get competent people to diagnose this problem.
    -- E.R.

    We suggested some simple first steps in on-site detective work to track down this night time hissing noise:

    • Have a good flashlight in hand
    • Turn off all electrical power at the main panel
    • Does the sound change ?
    • Wait a few minutes to observe
    • If there is no change in the sound,
    • Turn off all water at the water main valve
    • If there is change in sound, try turning off individual pieces of equipment in the home, or even ALL electrical power
    • Record the date and time of the noise at each occurrence, especially when it was first observed
    • Record What equipment is operating or turned off in the building
    • Record what weather conditions might be pertinent such as wind, rain, or freezing
    • Record what has changed in the building that might be relevant such as installation or removal of equipment
    • Record differences in noise perception between what is observed indoors, at different indoor locations, and outside.
    • Check for normal indoor hissing sounds such as heating system air vents (Heating System Noises) and air vents on water pressure tanks.
    • Check these other sources of indoor hissing sounds

      The steps above were not sufficient, as E.R. continued.

    • I followed your instructions:
    • I turned off the water at the main (left off fall Night)
    • I turned off the grinder pump (septic system) and left it off all night)
    • I turned of the electric fuse box and the noise continues
      At my wits end....
    • I had a home inspector to view the property and he thought it was crickets.
    • Of course, we both know is isn't crickets...
    • I called the cable company, the telephone company.
    • People are going to think I am hard of hearing. NO WAY ...I do not have tinnitis
    • This is a real challenge and I don't know what else to do.

      In difficult cases such as this one, having an experienced person on-site when the noises are occurring, possibly using simple noise amplification equipment to help determine the direction from which sound is emanating, may be the only way to both make progress and avoid contusing medical health concerns for on-site sound problems.

Other medical conditions: If you or someone you are assisting is disturbed by noises whose presence is not verified by independent third parties, we recommend that you or the noise-disturbed person check with their physician. In addition to careful medical examination, use of hearing aids or a white noise machine may assist in these cases.
See SOUND CONTROL in buildings

Shown above is the Sleep Mate™ sound generator produced by Marpac.

Hearing Disabilities and Building Noises

Hearing Disabilities and the ability to identify and track the source of noises in buildings can be difficult for the hearing impaired.

Even when a noise is present at a discernable level, a person with hearing impairment may have difficulty accurately pointing to the direction from which a noise is emanating. If you are hearing impaired or working with someone who is, recruit additional help from others and don't forget to consider that the apparent direction or source of a noise could be quite mistaken.

Also don't forget to check hearing aids themselves for noise sources; a poorly-fitting or low battery hearing aid may squawk, shriek, or emit periodic chimes, beeps, or with the newest units even voices announcing "low battery".


Continue reading at HEATING SYSTEM NOISES in BUILDINGS or select a topic from the More Reading links shown below.

Or see HEALTH RELATED NOISE COMPLAINTS for in-depth information about hearing-related or health-related noise complaints in or around buildings.

Also see SOUND EVENT LOG for a tool that can help sort out building-related noises from health-related sound complaints

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HEALTH-RELATED NOISE PERCEPTION at - online encyclopedia of building & environmental inspection, testing, diagnosis, repair, & problem prevention advice.

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