The Elevated Nuisance of Noise During a Pandemic

The Elevated Nuisance of Noise During a Pandemic

Shelby Smith

November 9, 2020


Neighborly noise is always a nuisance, but how does this change when leaving the house is no longer a safe, reliable option? People are spending more time than ever in their homes due to COVID-19. Work, play, and relaxation are now all happening under the same roof, with the same uncontrollable score in the background: neighbors. 

Whether it be a homeowner with a neighbor addicted to lawn care or an apartment dweller sharing a wall with an aspiring DJ, struggles abound when people have to find ways to focus and engage in virtual meetings amidst the noise. Stella, whose name has been changed for anonymity, is a senior at MSU living in East Lansing. She signed her lease long before the  pandemic and now finds herself trapped among fraternity houses and the disturbances they create. 

“My apartment is very near to three different frat houses. One in particular is a frequent culprit. When they have parties I can hear the music and the yelling, which is a special kind of stress when you’re trying to sleep but you can hear and see people outside your window perpetuating a pandemic,” said Stella. “Since August, the same house has frequently blasted their music in the middle of the afternoon on weekdays, making it incredibly difficult to focus on classes and homework. It’ll be 1 PM on a Wednesday and suddenly EDM is barreling through my apartment while I attempt to study or attend class.”

Senior professional writing and linguistics double major Megan Elias faces a different sort of nuisance in the form of a barking dog. 

Elias said, “We only share one wall, and they have a BIG dog. We hear him bark a lot. We can tell when they aren’t home because he just barks constantly in an annoying endless pattern of five barks at a time. We thought about knocking, but it’s not like they can do anything about it. Dogs bark. I just wish they got a smaller breed that isn’t so loud.”

For those in East Lansing living with party noise, there is some hope for reprieve as the weather grows colder. 

Stella said, “In the warmer months, the music would start early and sometimes go for close to 12 hours multiple days a week. The constant inescapable noise really raised my anxiety for those weeks because I am a very COVID conscious person and, especially in this city, there’s not much for me to escape to, so I listen to music I don’t enjoy and these boys yelling obscenities at one another.”

Elias has some experience with partying neighbors as well. “I lived in a different apartment last year before COVID hit where I once had the people above us playing music so loud that my couch was shaking and one of my other neighbors called the cops. Eventually they opened the door and through my peephole I saw like 50 people file down the stairs. So compared to that, a barking dog is pretty harmless. Since it’s inescapable, though, my roommate and I find ourselves getting pretty cranky when he’s going for a while,” said Elias. 

In a time when everyone is largely contained to their homes, noise nuisance takes on a new meaning. There is enough going on for everyone to stress about, so be a respectful neighbor: limit loud music, take care of your pets, and just pipe down.


Shelby Smith is a senior double majoring in English and professional and public writing with a concentration in creative writing. Outside her time spent on “The Current” and with the MSU Writing Center, Shelby likes to read, attempt to author her own works, and watch something she’s already seen on Netflix.