You’re not imagining it. Summer 2020 is noisier than usual. We should have known it back in June, when people were setting off firecrackers at all times of the night. Thank goodness that seems to be over.

But the party’s not.

We are now privy to a cacophony of sounds seeping into our homes that — especially as many of us are trying to work from home — is driving us batty.

The trying hum of our industrious landscaping neighbor’s buzz saw or leaf blower. The incessant pounding of the jumping jack fitness buff who lives in the apartment above. The never-ending squeals of the little ones on our block playing outside all day long.

“We always get an increase in noise complaints in the summer,” says Rue Landau, executive director of the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations. “But this year, there has already been a 24% increase in neighbor complaints. And a lot of those calls are noise-related.

Sure, Philadelphia and its surrounding ‘burbs have ordinances that prohibit noise and excessive vibration. For example in Philadelphia, although it’s hard to enforce, it’s against the law to to make loud noise outside — like play music or operate a lawn mower — from 9 p.m. to 8 a.m.

So what can we do when OPN — other people’s noise — is jacking up our morning meditation? Here are a few tips to lower the volume on this summer.

How to talk to neighbors about noise

Whether the unwanted clamor is coming from, the home improvement guru who lives across the street or the Zumba studio below your apartment, the first step is to have a conversation with the noisemaker, Landau says. He or she might be unaware that their activities are disturbing your quality of life.

Start the chat when the tension is not escalated. “Running out trying to address a noise issue at midnight is going to have a completely different effect than chatting about it during the day when the emotion is not there,” Landau says.

When starting these uncomfortable conversations, keep these thoughts in mind:

  • Be reasonable. We live in close quarters, Landau says. Yes, your neighbors are home. And their children have been home, too, — for almost four months, now. We are all going a little stir crazy so of course the TV will be loud. The music will, too. “We have to maintain a sense of community at this time,” Landau says. Try to come to an agreement about some ground rules, and be flexible. Try asking that they keep the noise down from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., so you can get work done, Landau says.
  • Have compassion. You don’t know what your neighbor is going through during this pandemic. Perhaps they have lost a job or a loved one, or they are having a difficult time in isolation and their impromptu solo dance parties — with all of their thunderous noise — is their only outlet. Your neighbor isn’t necessarily being inconsiderate. “Don’t rush to judgment,” Landau says.
  • Be honest. A lot of time we find that it isn’t the wind chimes that are the issue, it’s that the neighbors just don’t like each other, Landau said. “If you are honest about what’s really bothering you, you may be able to use this situation to repair a relationship.” Use this opportunity in communication to air out grievances, Landau says. If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it’s that time is precious and that forgiveness is better than holding long-standing grudges.

Try mediation

But there will be times when you can’t take the noise. And talking it through is just not working. If the noise disagreement escalates to violence, call the police. If, however, you think mediation will help, contact the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations at 215-686-4670. But, Landau says, keep in mind that introducing a third party for mediation doesn’t always sit well with the offending party. So, make sure you’ve had that initial conversation first.

What does mediation look like? The commission will contact you and your neighbor about the complaint and if necessary convene a meeting between the two parties in an effort to find common ground.

Coping with noise

There may be practical ways to handle noise that’s bothering you.

  • Earplugs are an obvious solution, and can help dull the noise. Plus, they’re cheap.
  • White noise machines will substitute the din with more calmer-sounding waves. These are good for helping your child fall asleep when loud music is playing or there is noise from construction, says Adam Domurad, from World Wide Stereo in Montgomeryville. They range in price from about $25 to more than $100.
  • Noise-canceling headphones. They aren’t cheap — a good pair from Sony or Bose will run you about $300 — but they work by generating tones that cancel out a lot ofbackground noise. “With the best ones, you don’t hear anything,” explains Domurad.
  • Transparency headphones. Noise-canceling headphones help when you crave quiet needed for concentration. But if you want to watch television, listen to music, or talk on the phone without being bothered by background noise, Domurad suggests transparency headphones. They filter out the unwanted noise so that whatever you’re streaming or listening to comes in clear. They can cost well over $100, depending on the brand. “If you live in a multi-dwelling unit, and you put these headphones on, you can escape into your own little world,” Domurad says.
  • Soundproof your home. A trip to the hardware store may be your best bet: Fill in gaps underneath doors by adhering rubber weather stripping to the bottom of the door. Install door curtains over your front door; they can act as a sound buffer. Hang a foam ceiling cloud. They aren’t cheap, but they can help eliminate echoes and absorb noises in your space.