Soundproofing, Noise Tolerances, Noise Reduction and STC Values, Part 1

By Randy Brown
Soundproof Windows, Inc.

This article was written to provide information about noise tolerance levels as generally perceived by individuals, as well as the probable STC rating value of rooms and windows needed to bring about a satisfactory level of noise reduction achieved by soundproofing.

Note: for a definition of STC ("sound transmission class") please see this page on STC Ratings, courtesy of Soundproof Windows.

Photo of a man speaking into a megaphone to demonstrate that soundproofing is required when there are noise problems.

Soundproofing and The Four Types of People Relative to Noise Tolerance Levels

Noise Tolerance Level 1: “Oblivious to Noise”, Happy

These are the people that say they are not bothered by the noise and believe they do not need any noise reduction or soundproofing.  Common phrases are “I am used to it” or especially “You’ll get use to it”.  By discussion it seems that 50-60% of people are in this group.  In actuality I think it is more like 10-15%, with the rest belonging to the Level 2 group.  Now as the noise problem is resolved after soundproofing and quieted more and more, this level converts from being the oblivious, because there is a noise problem, to being in the satisfied Noise Tolerance Level 3 group, because the noise problem is resolved.

Man relaxing in a hammock in a quiet environment.

Noise Tolerance Level 2: The “I think it doesn’t bother me” Group, Satisfied

By description they belong to the Noise Tolerance Level 1 group.  In practice, noise problems don’t bother them in the same way as the other groups.

While people in this group seem to be able to sleep through the noise, they really do not without soundproofing.  They sleep, but their sleep is shallower than otherwise.  To get the same amount of rest, they need to sleep longer.  Studies, reviews and experience seem to indicate that one needs up to an hour more sleep when moving from a quiet environment to a moderately noisy environment.

Stress levels are also affected by noise problems.  Many can appreciate this by comparing it to when they travel.  Some people seem more energetic or rested when traveling.  Often this can be largely affected by a quieter environment.  They sleep the same, but feel better.  They are more relaxed and less stressed.  Yes, vacations can be less stressful naturally, but maybe not when visiting in-laws, or on otherwise stressful business trips, etc.   Sometimes, when compared to their spouse, the noise level does not bother them.  When better noise reduction is achieved with soundproofing, this group also can be a Level 3 Tolerance converted to a Level 2 because it IS now quieter, etc.

Noise Tolerance Level 3: “Tolerable, but not happy with the noise”

This group is bothered or annoyed by the noise.  They do not like the noise, but can seemingly live with it without soundproofing.  They may not understand the insidious nature of the negative impact of the noise problem, but they know they would like it quieter.

People in this Noise Tolerance group are at times annoyed at the noises, while at other times it does not bother them. Maybe only when trying to get to sleep, trying to stay asleep in the morning, or trying to "quietly" watch TV in the evenings are they very annoyed with the noise levels (but not all three or they would belong to the Noise Tolerance Level 4 Group).

People in this group may write off the noise problems or need to put up with the noise levels as:

  • The cost of living in the city
  • Welcome to “modern life”
  • Not knowing there is really something they can do for noise reduction

Often it is really a matter of how constant the noise problem is.  Maybe the noise problem only exists at unpredictable or infrequent times:

  • The neighbor’s dog that only sometimes goes into barking frenzies 
  • The construction that gets worse and then better 
  • The neighbor the mows his yard at 7 a.m. on Saturdays twice a month
  • The neighbor that tunes his hot rod late at night every month
  • The neighbor that drives his Harley to work at 6:30 a.m. during the summer 
Noise Tolerance Level 4: The “I hate all Noise” Group

Woman tearing her hair out because of the noise.

I think this phrase says it all. 

People may move from group to group depending on the noise environment they live in.  Maybe they just bought a new home and did not realize it was so noisy (or that they were so sensitive, since they had lived in a quiet area previously).  Many people in the Level 4 group would turn around and immediately sell and move out of the new home, but many cannot afford to do that. 

Most people do not realize they can do something to quiet down the environment to achieve a better level of noise reduction with soundproofing.  Of course, the Level 4 group points out the financial aspects of soundproofing.  Sometimes it can be expensive to resolve the noise problems.  To apply soundproofing, sometimes it is a “pay me now or pay me later” scenario: pay to solve the noise problem or live with the negative effects of not solving the noise problem. 

Since you reading this article, you are not likely in the first two groups.  Perhaps, the only distinction between the last three groups is the level of noise any one person is actually subjected to.

Click on Soundproofing to continue.