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I live (against my will) on the bottom floor of an apartment building, with a car road nearby. I made this text illustration to help you see the situation:

    /  /  /
   /     /====+
  /  /  /     =====+
 /     /  <-- Road ==============================  <-- Walking road.
/  /  /         Ex-bush -> || v-- My window
     /          -------------==------------
/   /           |             * <-- Me    |
                |                         |

As you can see, there was a tall bush/shrubbery (well above the height of a grown man and the windows) right outside my window.

Recently, they went insane and ordered it to be cut down almost to the ground, to make my life even more miserable. (The official reason was for "security", because the neighbor had a burglar and they claim it was enabled by the large bush/shrubbery, blocking the view.)

Ever since they did this, I have started hearing traffic much more than before. I never thought about that particular noise pollution before. Now, I hear those horrible car engines all the time. At least frequently, every day. Even if I close the window entirely. (Which is not usually possible due to the heat/lack of air.)

The window opens inwards with the "gap" to the left from my position and the illustration. But again, it seems to be quite noticeable even with it closed, and from the kitchen (next room to the right).

Is it actually possible that the leaves were so great at blocking the sound? Or is this all in my mind? I wish it's all in my mind, because if not, then that bush/shrubbery is even more missed by me than before. (Another negative part is that it's now all visually "open" here and anyone can stare at me from the surroundings whenever I go out on the balcony.)

Length bird's way between my window and the road where it touches the walking road: almost exactly 100 meters. The illustration is obviously simplified.

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Is it actually possible that the leaves were so great at blocking the sound?

Yes, but it really depends on the frequency of the sound. Objects can reflect, diffus or scatter sound if they are the same size or larger than the wavelength of the sound. That means that high frequencies can be fairly well blocked or deflected by vegetation but low frequencies typically don't. In your case this probably means that the "character" of the traffic noise has changed, perhaps from a low dull rumble to something that's more distinct and sharper and that's more prone to draw attention.

On the plus side, high frequency noises can be much more easily blocked by windows (if they properly seal) than low frequency noises: so at least in winter you may get some relief.

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Sound wave energy would be absorbed and deflected by the bush . See this

Evergreen shrubs make the best plants for noise because they provide year-round noise reduction. Broadleaf evergreens are more effective than narrow-leaf plants and conifers. Choose trees and shrubs with dense branches that reach all the way to the ground. Plants, such as hollies and junipers, that have thick branches at ground level provide excellent noise reduction.

See also this for a more critical review.

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