Noises, or undesirable sounds, and noise pollution are receiving increased attention. An often cited report by the World Health Organization in 1999, and more recent one in 2009, list many diverse health effects from noise on humans.
In addition to hearing impairment, excessive noise may cause behavioral changes including negative ones, sleep disturbances, cardiovascular disturbances, and impaired task performance. We can reduce noise in our landscapes and gardens.
It is a misconception that landscape plantings will significantly reduce noise coming from off our properties. To be really effective at reducing noise, a planting of tall evergreens would need to be perhaps 50 feet wide. To be effective, fences and walls must be higher and more solid than most budgets or town regulations may allow. Distance between you and the source is the best way to reduce noise, but least practical in most cases.
One rule of thumb is that if you can see the source of noise, you can hear it.
Another means to reduce our hearing of noise from off our property is by masking it with sounds we like, or at least providing a distraction, such as from music. Just make sure, if music through outdoor speakers, that what is pleasing to you doesn't travel off your property as noise to the neighbors.
One of the most popular garden features to add pleasant sounds is water. This can be as simple as a manual well, small recirculating pump, and lined whiskey barrel half. I have such a feature near a window, so I can appreciate the running water from inside.
Consider preserving and enhancing those desirable natural garden sounds you have, but may not have noticed, such as a babbling brook. Encourage more and different birds for their songs.
When considering sounds in your garden, leave no stone unturned. You should even think about your path surfaces and the sounds made by walking on gravel or wood chips.