There is a lot of construction noise outside our apartment and, inside, the walls seem thin. Are there any ways we can reduce the impact?
Noise reduction falls into two broad categories: sound isolation and sound absorption. You've got two different noise problems: noise from outside calls for isolation, while the noise you generate inside calls for absorption.
The bad news is that noise isolation is complex and expensive. It usually involves structural work such as resealing and replacing doors and windows, or building a second, soundproofed wall on top of your existing walls. Unless you're planning to record an album in your front room, this is probably unnecessary, particularly when you're renting. But if it's your own property and you want to make changes, hire a professional acoustical consultant such as PMK International in Dubai.
Heavy-duty acoustic curtains can reduce street noise by a few decibels, but they won't block it out completely. Try Design Coordinates (04 351 7168), which stocks Bauman acoustic fabrics for upholstery and curtains.
Now the good news: it's much easier to tackle the noise you make within the home. Sound absorption is key, and the floor is a great place to start. Most homes in the UAE come with ceramic tiles, which not only reflect ambient sounds but also magnify noise from the floor itself, such as high heel footsteps.
A wall-to-wall carpet or a large, plush rug will help. Stick with a heavy, high-density product and install it with underlay. United Flooring in Sharjah can custom-make this for you.
Curtains and upholstery may not drown out the piling and drilling from the tower next door, but they're excellent at dampening internal noise. Choose a specialist acoustic fabric, which doesn't have to be clunky and ugly if you go for modern materials. The Swiss designer Création Bauman has a range of graphic and plain fabrics that can spruce up your windows and furniture.
Textured wallpaper such as leather or a crocodile effect will also help. For a more innovative look, check out the London-based artist Anne Kyyrö Quinn's wall panels, which combine natural felt and 3D patterns.
Finally, think about diffusion, which will rid your room of echo without replacing it with acoustic deadness. Concert halls and recording studios use professional diffusion products, but you can try a more mundane solution: a bookcase with different sized books does the trick.