How to Deal With a Noisy Roommate When Communication Fails You

Whether you live in a college dorm or a crowded city apartment, knowing how to deal with a noisy roommate is a valuable skill. As I always say, when you’re trying to resolve a conflict you have with a person you live with, your primary goal should be to understand them. Of course, I’m also aware that most of us aren’t saints. So altercations will often be unavoidable, especially when your peace of mind is at stake.

Living with a noisy person can be particularly challenging. After all, most people don’t want to forfeit the many health benefits of living in a quiet home. Still, if your roommate refuses to be quiet, there are things you can do to fend off the noise and keep your sanity.

How to deal with a noisy roommate.

10 Ways to Deal With a Noisy Roommate

As always, I like to make my guides sensible enough that you can follow each of my suggestions in order. So let’s begin with the most crucial piece of advice I’ve got for anyone who’s dealing with a noisy roommate.

1. Don’t Go Right for the Kill

First, you may be wondering when’s the right time to intervene if your roommate is being too noisy. Obviously, you don’t want to rush it and ruin your relationship over a one-time disturbance. But if your roommate is regularly practicing their instrument or playing video games without headphones at all hours of the day and night, you should step in.

Unless they’re consistent in disrespecting your wishes, there’s no need to go berserk. If you’re forgetful, like I am, you could even keep a journal of your grievances. That way, you’ll be able to make sure your roomie understands your frustration the next time you have a sit-down. So let’s see how you can address the issue of noise at your next house meeting.

2. Communicate

No matter what, don’t give in to the urge to call your roommate out. That will only cause a greater rift between you — and that’s something you surely don’t want. After all, your roommate is someone you’ll share your space with for the foreseeable future.

As I have mentioned, writing down the things you want to talk about is a great idea. Essentially, it gives you time to cool down and discuss the noise without the anger you may feel in the moment. However, you also shouldn’t take too long to mention that noise is a dealbreaker for you. Allow your roommate the chance to change their behavior before you become too resentful.

If having a casual conversation fails, you could make it more formal by establishing some house rules. For example, you can both listen to music on low volume or simply wear headphones. You could also designate “quiet hours” during the day and, of course, all through the night. And if your roommate insists on having loud and lengthy phone calls, you could exile them to the balcony, the hallway, or their room, until they’re done.

One of my roommates even had their house rules printed out — although you probably shouldn’t go that far. But if you wanted to write the main rules down on a whiteboard, I’m sure your roommate wouldn’t mind. And if they happen to break the rules, don’t blow a gasket. Instead, calmly remind them of the rules and leave it at that.

3. SOUNDPROOF YOUR ROOM

If no amount of talk can get your roommate to stop being noisy, you could simply distance yourself. If you’re not sharing a small dorm room, you might be able to go to another room. On the other hand, you could create a soundproof nest wherever you are. But let’s start with seeing how you might fortify a room against noises.

The best way to insulate your room from sounds that are coming from inside your apartment or house is to start with the doors and shared walls. To that end, I recommend installing a weatherstripping tape all along the inside of the door, where it will hit the frame, as well as a door sweep.

These items will prevent the sound from coming in through the gaps between the door and the door frame. However, if you can still feel the air moving around the door, you may have to apply acoustic caulk all around the frame as well.

As for the walls, there are different solutions you might try, depending on the amount of money and effort you’re willing to put in. For example, you can start by stacking furniture against the shared wall, or attach MLV or soundproof curtains to it. If you’re able to make alterations to the wall and you have the funds to do it, you can also stuff them with soundproof insulation.

And if you can’t handle that kind of expense right now, there are many cheap ways to soundproof your walls. But what if you have no walls at all?

4. Install Soundproof Room Divider Curtains

On the other hand, if the space you’re sharing with your noisy roommate is only a small dorm room, you could create a private cocoon by installing a room divider curtain. Unlike regular soundproof drapes, room divider curtains usually have the same material on both sides of the panel. So both sides should be attractive to look at.

Furthermore, room divider curtains tend to be multi-layered and thicker than regular curtains. And you could even enhance their efficacy by opening them up and attaching a sheet of MLV inside. Alternatively, you can stuff it with more fabrics. Remember, the thicker and heavier your divider is, the more noise it will block out.

Of course, you should also make sure that they’re covering as much of the area between the floor and the ceiling as possible. Make sure that the gap between the curtains and the ceiling track is minimal, and buy drapes that are long enough to pool on the floor a bit.

The best part of this solution is that it will also give you some privacy, which can be much-needed when you’re sharing a single room with someone.

5. Wear Earplugs or Noise-Canceling Headphones

Depending on how loud your roommate is, you may also have to physically plug your ears to cancel out the noise they’re making. Fortunately, there are several kinds of products that may help.

If you like studying, working, or sleeping in total silence, you can get a pack of earplugs for a fairly low price. They can be made of all sorts of materials, from rubber foam to silicone, beeswax, and even thermoplastic. Firm silicone earplugs are often reusable or washable, unlike the soft ones that are made from moldable silicone.

Conversely, foam earplugs are decidedly not washable or reusable, as they are not waterproof. Still, they create a much tighter seal inside your ear canal, so you can count on them to block out any kind of noise.

6. Put on Some White Noise

If you can still hear your roommate’s music through all the other soundproofing measures you’ve put in place, you can try to cancel it out with white noise. As I have previously explained, white, pink, and brown noises all contain the full range of frequencies humans can hear, from 20–20,000 Hz. That allows them to mask all other sounds in that range — which should include whatever your roommate is up to.

Ultimately, there are many benefits to listening to white noise, not the least of which is helping you focus. Surprisingly, it has also been shown to encourage the development of better sleeping patterns, which may be helpful if you’re stuck living with a night owl.

Now, I have many articles on the subject of white noise and the machines that can produce it. Or if you want to make it easier for yourself, you could always use an app or a website. Many of those sites and products have other noise profiles as well. Use the sounds of rushing water, rustling leaves, and crackling fires to make the perfect auditory cocktail.

But if you don’t want to be quite so obvious about what you’re doing, you can get a fan that makes a notably loud whirring sound.

7. Go Out

If absolutely none of the things I’ve mentioned so far managed to prevent the noise from reaching you, remove yourself from the equation. If you live in a small dorm room and your roommate keeps practicing their instrument while you’re trying to study, you should go to a friend’s room, instead. Alternatively, you can study or work elsewhere, like at a library or a local coffee shop.

8. Get Enough Sleep

When you’re living with a noisy night owl, you should try your best to sleep through their antics. That means that you should:

  • Avoid napping during the day or at least in the afternoon
  • Exhaust yourself by exercising before bedtime
  • Do relaxing yoga stretches to prepare your mind for sleep
  • Engage your senses by diffusing lavender oil or using a pillow mist

Basically, you should do whatever you can to put yourself in a sleepy mood. In addition to the things I’ve listed, you can also play some white noise or even a soothing podcast. And if you find yourself struggling to block out your roommate’s racket, I recommend wearing earmuffs to bed.

Getting a good night’s rest should allow you to be more reasonable if your roommate breaks the no-noise rules. However, if they continue disrupting your sleep, I have a few final tips to suggest.

9. If You’re Sharing a Dorm — Talk to a Resident Assistant

Naturally, if your roommate is being particularly disruptive, you can always report them to the dorm RA. You can even ask the students in the surrounding rooms to complain if they’re bothered by the noise too.

In the interest of preserving the peace, this tip should be the last thing you try. But if your roommate has refused to work on finding a compromise with you, there’s no shame in reporting them to someone who might have more pull over them. After all, you probably didn’t choose to live in the same room with them. So you should do everything you can to make sure you are able to study and sleep in your room.

Your RA will try to encourage your roommate to create and stick to a noise schedule with you. But if they’re not particularly effective, take the problem to someone else in the Office of Residence Life.

Of course, the most extreme solution you can take is to apply for a room change. Well, if you don’t want to go through the official channels, you could just switch with someone else. Surely, there’s another student around who’d jump on the chance to escape the loud roommate they got stuck with and room with you.

On the other hand, why should you have to move? If your roommate is so bad, you could ask them to leave. And that also goes for any living arrangement you might have after you graduate. But if they don’t comply, you could always decide to make their life a living hell until they do.

10. Be Petty

Alright, so I was mostly joking about making their life a living hell. Still, you could demonstrate why your roommate’s noisy ways are so off-putting by giving them a taste of their own medicine.

Find a time of day (or night) when your roommate doesn’t want you to be noisy. Then, unleash chaos! You can start small, making a ruckus as you get the pots and pans you need to make a meal. Get progressively louder, kicking a trash bin, or purposely blaring your tunes when your roommate is feeling more pensive.

If you live with a night owl who tends to be the noisiest when you’re trying to sleep, go about your morning routine as loudly as possible. And if they try to reprimand you, politely remind them that you’re not doing anything they haven’t done to you. Hopefully, that will get your point across.

On the other hand, if your roommate doesn’t react adversely to noise, you could try other pranks. For inspiration, refer to my article about taking revenge on noisy neighbors. Even if all this pettiness doesn’t make our roommate stop behaving so rudely, at least you’ll blow off some steam.

Alternatively, you can take a page out of grandma’s playbook and guilt trip them into submission. Mope around, complaining that you’re unable to study because of the noise or because you couldn’t get enough sleep. If you’re feeling theatrical, you can enhance your gaunt and sleep-deprived appearance with makeup. Again, these kinds of schemes may not get you the desired results, but they’re certainly fun to ponder.

Successfully Dealing With Noisy Roommates

All jokes aside, if you’re sharing a dorm or an apartment with a noisy roommate, your best bet will be to come to a compromise. If that seems impossible, you might want to consider finding a quieter person to share your home with. Even if you end up having to move, everything would be better than living in a loud environment.

But the middle ground solution is, as always, soundproofing your area as much as you can. That, in combination with some basic respect for the house rules, will allow both you and your roommate to carry on as usual.

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