If noise is bothering you to the point that you want to take soundproofing steps, you can come at it from two angles: noise transmission and noise reception. Perhaps you practice on an electric guitar every night and don't want your neighbors to complain about your intense jam sessions -- that's a transmission issue. As that noise-barraged neighbor, you'd want to block that sound out, in other words, block the reception.
The next question is what type of sound you're dealing with. You know that chest-pounding feeling you get when you pull up beside a car with bass blasting through a subwoofer? Those indoor noise vibrations your body feels are referred to as structure-borne. Overhearing a conversation or knowing what's on a neighbor's tube is called airborne noise [source: Sound Isolation Company].
Muffling those audible aggravations involves three different avenues: space, mass and dampening. Space increases the amount of air between your ears and the source, diffusing the noise by taking away the vibration channels. Mass, such as a hefty wall, can act as a sound sponge, soaking in the waves. Dampening sound requires specific materials, insulation for instance, that will convert structure-borne sound waves to heat energy [source: acousticalsolutions.com].
On the next page, we'll learn the simplest and cheapest ways to keep sound in and out of your humble abode.