City Cast

How Chicagoans Can Get Homes Soundproofed From Airport Noise

Sidney Madden
Sidney Madden
Posted on August 10   |   Updated on August 17
A plane landing at Chicago's O'Hare airport.

A plane landing at Chicago's O'Hare airport. (Tim Boyle / Getty)

Northwest and Southwest siders who live near airports are deeply familiar with the sounds of planes taking off and touching down at O’Hare and Midway — and all the disturbances the noises cause.

A free program is helping eligible residents soundproof their homes.

Door and window used to insulate homes

Door and window used to insulate homes. (Courtesy of Milhouse, Inc.)

What is Noise Pollution?

Noise pollution is unwanted or disturbing sounds that affect everyday activities like sleeping and talking. Sounds that are above 85 decibels or higher can be harmful to our ears, according to the National Institutes of Health. (A motorcycle emits up to 100 dB, and fireworks up to 120 dB.)

Health Repercussions

In addition to noise-related hearing loss, residents who live by airports are more at risk of developing high blood pressure and stress-related illnesses.

How Do You Soundproof Your Home?

Chicago's Residential Sound Insulation Program has soundproofed more than 20,000 homes since the ‘90s. Milhouse Inc., Vice President of Program Management James Fifer and senior engineer Dan Mullane told Hey Chicago how it works.

Eligible homes in noisy areas by the airports are identified, and then installation includes new windows, doors, and even air conditioning (the latter helps residents keep windows closed in the summer).

The goal? A 5 dB reduction in homes.

The reception? More than 90% of survey respondents were satisfied with the change, Mullane said.

What Can You Do?

What Else to Know?

Chicago is the third noisiest city in the country due to airport operations, population density, and music fests, according to a study by 42Floors.

Correction: A previous version of this article misspelled Dan Mullane's name.

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