Neighbor noise and violence

Photo credit: Aleksandar Pasaric from Pexels

by Arline L. Bronzaft, Ph.D., Board of Directors, GrowNYC, and Co-founder, The Quiet Coalition

Recent articles examining the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on the soundscape have reported that while complaints about sounds from overhead planes, construction, and bars have been reduced, neighbor to neighbor noise complaints have increased. This is explained, in part, by the fact that more people are staying in their homes over longer periods of time. The Japan Times addresses this issue squarely in its story, “Gripes about noisy neighbor boil over in Tokyo as stay-home drive drags on.” But this article adds another element to these neighbor complaints–violence.

The story highlights two incidents in which people stabbed their neighbors because they could not stand the noises the neighbor was making. Violence following noise is not new. There have been articles written over the years detailing individuals acting violently against neighbors who have imposed their loud music, footsteps, or voices on them. But what has been happening in Tokyo with 2020 noise complaints during the pandemic is that they have exceeded by over 25% the number of phone calls reporting noise during the same period last year. While noise, according to this article, has already been a leading cause of trouble between neighbors in Japan, it appears that the increase in complaints during the pandemic has resulted in a greater interest in trying to resolve such complaints.

The Japan Times cites Professor Emeritus Norihisa Hashimoto, who explains that people who are the subjects of noise complaints believe such claims are unreasonable while those who make the complaints feel frustrated as the noise continues unabated. He calls for “a specialized organization for hearing their stories neutrally.”

This difference in perception between those who are making the complaints and those who are accused of being noisy has always been the case. I know this because as a member of GrowNYC’s Board of Directors I have been asked frequently to resolve neighbor to neighbor noise complaints. While not always successful, the large numbers of times I, as a neutral listener, have succeeded in reducing the noise strongly suggests that it is worthwhile trying to mediate such noise problems. I believe public officials in New York City who have also assisted their constituents with noise complaints will say the same. I would also like to point out that New York City’s leases stipulate that landlords should provide residents with “reasonable” quiet. Thus, landlords and managing agents can limit intrusive neighbor noises as well.

Dr. Arline Bronzaft is a researcher, writer, and consultant on the adverse effects of noise on mental and physical health. She is co-author of “Why Noise Matters,” author of “Listen to the Raindrops” (children’s book illustrated by Steven Parton), and has written extensively about noise in books, encyclopedias, academic journals, and the popular press.  In addition, she is a Professor Emerita of the City University of New York and Board member of GrowNYC.

Comments (4)

  1. Michael

    It is not surprising that neighbour noise and violence are linked because research shows that “high information content” neighbour noise even at very low levels, is a health hazard. This is effectively an assault of a persons health and the self defence response is violence. See Niemann et al “Noise-induced annoyance and morbidity results from the pan-European LARES study” 2006 http://www.noiseandhealth.org/article.asp?issn=1463-1741;year=2006;volume=8;issue=31;spage=63;epage=79;aulast=Niemann
    I have mentioned before that Diana Weinhold’s 2018 “Sick of Noise: the Health Effects of Loud Neighbours and Urban Din”, further developed Niemann’s research which established that exposure to neighbour noise was comparable to a history of smoking and worse than street noise.
    Although I may not be a scientist my hypothesis is that human hearing, who have evolved over hundreds of millions of years, perceive neighbour noise a threat , as primal as listening for danger from predatory animals or other humans. Human beings have only been living in close urban environments for perhaps several thousand years and perhaps have been unable to filter out this threat response. Hence a possible reason for the relationship between neighbour noise and violence. Fight or flight.

    Reply
    1. GMB (Post author)

      Michael: Dr. Bronzaft appreciates your comments and would like you to know she has conducted research on the impacts of noise on mental and physical health including surveys on neighborhood noises and their effects on people.
      Debby: Many New Yorkers hear the sounds you hear.
      To both Michael and Debby: Go to http://www.growNYC.org/noise and click into both “Publications” and “Solving Noise Problems” sections. If you wish, you can contact me at GrowNYC. Arline Bronzaft

      Reply
  2. Debby Quashen

    I have been going through this for years. No one seems to get it there is supposed to be a noise ordinance law. From 11PM until 7AM there’s not supposed to be any noise. Sanitation trucks come at 1,2,5,6:30 in the morning. Large diesel engine trucks come barreling through at 5AM on a residential street. You have car and trucks blasting their horns. People talking outside in the middle of the night. It never stops.

    Reply
  3. Debby Quashen

    Ever live near a hospital, I don’t recommend it sirens morning noon and night not only from ambulance services but from fire engines and cars with sirens on top just trying to run red lights School buses honking morning and afternoon.

    Reply

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