my partner freaks out over any background noise when working from home

A reader writes:

My partner works in tech. He recently became a consultant after working for companies of various sizes, and he’s used to busy open offices, etc.

The problem is, he’s derailed by any disturbances. If, for instance, our dog barks at the postman during a meeting, I come home to rants about how the dog ruined the meeting. But small noises have a huge effect too: the neighbor yakking on his cell in his driveway, street sweepers, a car horn honks, and he loses it. Everything is the thing that makes him look unprofessional and/or keeps him from his work.

I’m on a partial work-from-home schedule and none of these things bother me, so I’m at a loss. He says it’s because my work isn’t as intense. Sure, I’ll accept that. But my question is, how valid are his issues? Is his employer really frowning at the background noise or is he overreacting? How are others in his situation working from home, what’s the new etiquette, what’s allowable? I’m frustrated and don’t know what to say or how to help.

It’s possible that his employer is indeed demanding complete quiet. If that’s the case, they’re being remarkably unrealistic; with so many people working from home right now, most employers know there’s no way to have absolute silence. But certainly some employers are exceptionally unrealistic , and it’s possible your boyfriend’s employer is one of them.

But I’m skeptical that that’s what’s going on, both because of the things he’s reacting to and the way he’s reacting.

When he was in the office, did a car horn never honk outside? Did a colleague never talk on the phone within his earshot? It’s true he probably didn’t need to deal with a barking dog at the office, but offices have a lot of other background noise of the type that seems to be setting him off right now.

What’s more, his reaction is … intense. He works at home! There’s going to be some background noise. If it’s a problem for him, it would make sense for him to look for solutions — noise-dampening curtains, noise-canceling headphones, a conversation with his boss about what he can and can’t control, etc. It doesn’t make sense for him to repeatedly lose it when there’s noise. (If it just happened once or twice, sure. We’re all under a lot of stress and lord knows we’re all occasionally losing it over weird things these days. But this sounds like it’s his regular M.O., and when you keep getting that upset over the same thing, you need to look for solutions, not just continue blowing up over it.)

I’d take a look at what else you know about him and the context to see if you can figure out what’s going on. Is under a ton of stress? Dealing with unusual pressure at work? Is he losing it over other things too? Is he angry and using this as an outlet? Does he feel he’s not getting the help or support he needs in other ways?

Background noise can be annoying, but it’s not this annoying. Something else is going on.

{ 268 comments… read them below }

  1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    Yeah, I see this as something else going on. He might be stressing out about the consulting position; if there was noise in the cube farm at the old job, well he was just a working schmo and there was nothing he could do. But he’s now the CEO of himself, and he may feel that he needs to have these things under his control.

    1. Firecat*

      That was my thought. Consultants are held to a much higher standard then employees. It was common at my d company to expect 70+ he workweeks from contractors since their fees were so high. We required most to be on site with their own equipment too.

    2. Ominous Adversary*

      And it would likely jeopardize his job if he were snapping at his co-workers about their making coffee too loudly or whatever. Snapping at his OP doesn’t, though.

    3. A Consultant*

      That’s what I was thinking too. Unless he’s a consultant employed by a Consulting Firm, there’s not a “boss” giving him this pressure. My guess is that he’s self-imposing pressure / redirecting anxieties about self-employment to the dog, neighbor, etc.

      And if a CLIENT is explicitly being that unreasonable, that’s something different to deal with. I know it’s really hard to think this way when you’re just starting out, but if a client is being THAT unreasonable about minor background noise at home (especially during a pandemic), that’s probably a client you don’t want long term. And the clients definitely can’t hear the neighbor on his cell phone, etc. So… I really suspect he’s struggling to process the (totally normal) stresses of starting your own business.

    4. Sparrow*

      I wondered about that too. If things aren’t going as well as he would like, I can imagine someone blaming environmental factors working against them – e.g., “that dog barking completely ruined my presentation and ruined my chances with that potential client” even if in reality the presentation wasn’t great and the dog barking was just a random occurrence.

      And if he’s the one getting rattled by the barking and it’s negatively impacting his performance (like he’s too busy obsessing over whether they’re distracted by the barking to be fully engaged), then I think he might need to get some kind of equipment that will help him tune out those sounds. Big headphones with professional clothing are one of the things that don’t even phase me in business meetings these days – if you need them to drown out noise around you and focus on the meeting, I fully support that.

  2. squirrel!*

    This could be off-base, but has he ever been evaluated for ADHD? I ask because I wasn’t diagnosed until I was an adult, and didn’t put together for years that my inability to concentrate well when there is background noise might be linked to that. I’ve also felt that with the stress of everything the past half year, my ADHD symptoms feel more prominent than ever.

    Of course, stress (of a new job, of the world, etc.) could aggravate a lot of underlying things. Not just ADHD.

    1. Ooh something shiny!*

      I was diagnosed in my late 20s and I absolutely agree with this. My quick irrational anger was a symptom and I didn’t know it until then!

      1. squirrel!*

        Same with the quick temper! It’s not always bad, but it’s absolutely something I see in myself and other family members with ADHD. The first thing I noticed when I started meds was how much easier it was to let things go and not let them emotionally distract me. I’ve always wondered if I should be treated for anxiety, but now I wonder if it is just the ADHD. When my meds are working, my anxiety goes way down. The emotional component to ADHD is incredibly fascinating, and not something I knew about until recently. At least for me, I think it plays a huge role in the ADHD symptoms that I find hardest to deal with. For example, a lot of not being able to settle down and enjoy a book or a movie or a hobby comes from this low level anxiety tied to other things I could be doing or should be doing. Once I’m able to stop mentally combing through all the other stuff I could or should be doing right now, I can both do the one thing I am doing, and do it with way less anxiety.

        It’s the ciiiiiiircle of neurodiverrrrrrrrgence!

        And while I’m here, to reply to the people expressing concern about the behavior being excused, I’m totally on board with y’all. Having a possible explanation doesn’t excuse being shitty to the people around you. (I grew up with an almost certainly undiagnosed ADHD parent who was also abusive. Nobody deserves that, and there aren’t excuses for treating people like that.) But if it helps put them on the road to self discovery and treatment, a lot might be accomplished all at once. Meta-cognitive awareness can go a long way to helping people recognize that they need to change and do better.

    2. Bertha*

      I had the saaaame thought. I also have ADHD and there are definitely times when outside noises bother me more than usual. Even if his office was busy and noisy before, I wouldn’t be surprised if the sum of it resulted in more of a white noise. It’s harder to ignore when it’s quiet and suddenly HONK BARK. The noises stand out a lot more.

      I’d even occasionally be distracted by coworkers loud whispering to each other in the office, and eventually I found I could put on headphones with classical music. At home, maybe a white noise machine would help. I struggle to work with nearly any music or podcasts so they only thing I could tolerate was instrumental music or white noise.

      1. Smithy*

        Noise that functions as white noise vs distracting noise became super clear to me from when I transitioned from working for a non-English speaking nonprofit with an open plan to an English speaking office that was much larger with the majority of people in their own office. In one office, having 5-7 attorneys potentially all speaking at once disappeared into a general hum. In the other, a loud door opening/closing would distract me.

        Ultimately neither place was more or less professional, but rather was about the impact it had on my concentration.

        1. TootsNYC*

          also, noise (i.e., a stimulus) in your own home is often noise that you’re supposed to react to.

          Noise in the office has someone else clearly dealing with it, and you can ignore it.
          I found the conversations of family members in the other room emotionally distracting in ways that a conversation at the next cubicle wasn’t. I feel that somehow I’m required to be involved in conversations that happen in my home.

          1. 10Isee*

            I agree. I have CPTSD and working from home is nearly unbearable because being at home puts me on high alert. Every sounds is more alarming and more distracting than the same sound was in-office.

            1. SooooTired*

              I have PTSD, controlled after years of therapy but still prone to hypervigilance, and my upstairs neighbor slamming on the floor (I don’t know how it’s possible to drop stuff so frequently; it makes my whole allegedly “luxury” apartment shake!) and dog barking has driven me to complete emotional fatigue.

              At least in an office nobody is constantly making your walls vibrate and there are no despicable dogs. You can easily block out noises with a headset on low.

              At home I cannot drown it out at all. You can’t drown out vibrations and a dog’s bark that can reverberate through walls. I’m supposed to be working right now but my god concentrating is so impossible I was googling other ideas on what to do.

      2. Quiltrrr*

        This is why I had my teenage daughter make me a playlist with some K-pop music. I don’t speak Korean, so I don’t understand the lyrics, but the rhythm/beat of the music keeps me awake.

          1. Smithy*

            If you already like classical music – opera, or compositions with singing in different languages can help mix things up. Henryk Gorecki’s Symphony 3 has been a recent work favorite of mine.

          2. Just Another Zebra*

            Fun fact! Music composed for video games is supposed to be tailored to increase concentration, and it’s always worked well for me :)

            There are several playlists on Spotify and Pandora that work great (although I now have a playlist of my own that I’ve made). Having Zelda play at my desk all day has really been delightful.

            1. Same!*

              Learning this was a game-changer (ha ha, I see what I did there) for me. I’d love recommendations from other for specific game soundtracks, unless that is going to derail. (I don’t have Spotify or Pandora or Apple Music or other subscription services.)

              Mass Effect soundtrack is my go-to. And relatedly, the soundtrack to the film Tron Legacy works too.

              1. Albatross*

                For peaceful instrumentals, the Journey soundtrack is great (by Austin Wintory) – there’s one track with lyrics, but other than that, it’s all instrumental and just meant to be background noise while you play the game. Wintory’s Bandcamp page is selling the digital version for $5 (or more, as you choose).

              2. Solana*

                My favorite videogame soundtracks include Ecco the Dolphin (Sega CD version) Tides of Time (Sega CD version), Lunar Silver Star Story and Eternal Blue, Okami (beautiful Japanese music!) Bravely Default, Radiant Historia, Final Fantasy, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, Undertale, Suikoden V, and many of the Megaman Themes. Most of these, if not all, should be on youtube if you wanna sample.

              3. Elizabeth the Ginger*

                Fez, Minecraft, Machinarium and Braid have all helped me write hundreds of report card comments! Fez especially. Zelda is also good. I’ve also gotten a lot of mileage out of the Blade Runner soundtrack.

                The genre known as “lofi” or “chill wave” also has a good balance of beats + chill. YouTuber ChilledCow has videos of lofi music with a looping animation of a girl studying.

              4. Mockingjay*

                Spotify and Pandora both have free services. You get a couple quick (30-second?) commercials every few songs and one skip per hour. I used Spotify’s free service for 5 years before I finally subscribed to Premium. If you try one, I suggest Spotify; its algorithms are terrific at finding new (to me) artists similar to those I already like. Pandora kept suggesting the same songs over and over.

            2. Solana*

              Before I knew about game soundtracks, I tape recorded songs right off of my TV. That tape got me from middle school through college. Now that I know about soundtracks, my collection is still growing.

            3. Idril Celebrindal*

              If the kind of video game music you like leans toward the epic, then Two Steps from Hell is a great addition. They do a lot of movie and video game soundtracks, and they are excellent.

            4. Meganly*

              TIL that the Skyrim soundtrack is on Spotify so I can listen to it without having the game open on my other computer lol

            5. TardyTardis*

              Nobuo Uematsu is a king in the realm of videogame music–he’s actually held concerts, especially of the themes from Final Fantasy 3. (Yes, I know it’s #6 in Japan).

    3. Yes.*

      I came into the comments to see if anyone else had already said this. I have ADHD and I can be derailed by things like people talking, too. He should be evaluated to see if he has an executive dysfunction disorder. Note: This doesn’t excuse his ranting at you over something that isn’t your fault, either.

      1. Cedarthea*

        I was in a talk and our speaker said “please excuse me if I get distracted by the contsruction noise outside the window, I have ADHD and that can be trouble for me”. That was what got me to seek out a diagnosis, because that was me.

        I can’t help but listen to people talk, and sometimes I will interrupt with the answer they are looking for (making me rude, on top of nosy). For me, medication, recognizing I have an issue and headphones have helped a whole lot with this. My colleagues know that my headphones help me focus but they are never loud enough that they can’t get my attention (as they serve as almost a placebo to keep me minding my own business)

    4. sequitur*

      I wondered about autism spectrum too, I’m on the spectrum and have basically zero ability to filter out background noise (or any sensory input for that matter); even when I’m meant to be concentrating on one sound, like a conversation, if there are other sounds also happening it’s like my brain has no ability to prioritise the more important sound, they both sound just as loud and my attention gets split equally between all of them, or even swayed towards the more-intrusive, less-relevant sound. My mother is on the spectrum too and has this even worse than I do. Misophonia might be another useful search term.

      1. Yarrow*

        Same. I was snapping at my partner at lot when I started working from home. But I’d also experienced a lot of the same thing with noise in the office.

      2. Firecat*

        Really? I had no idea that was autism spectrum related. It use to drive my friends in highschool nuts that I just could not understand them at a busy restaurant.

        I could hear them find but I could not comprehend.

        1. BubbleTea*

          I believe this is called auditory processing disorder, it’s often a ride-along with other neuro divergence.

        2. Lizzo*

          I’ve had this problem for years, though for me it has to do with being hard of hearing in a part of the mid-range (as opposed to losing hearing from the top or bottom of the range).

      3. Emma*

        Another person on the spectrum here – thanks for mentioning this. I’m sure a lot of people think I overreact to noise, but it completely throws me off track.

      4. Arvolin*

        I invested in noise-cancelling headphones, and amused my officemates by not noticing things like people standing at my desk. However, they work just fine when I’m on a video call, no problems.

    5. ThoughtsToday*

      Just general anxiety disorder can do this to you too. Hyper sensitive and quick to anger can definitely be signs of anxiety. I totally express anxiety through getting angry/frustrated but I don’t lash out at people because that’s not okay. Dude needs a therapist and some coping mechanisms.

    6. SillyLittlePittyPat!*

      Auditory processing disorder, a fan can be blowing and I can’t hear someone 3 feet away and can’t concentrate.

      1. Prof_Murph*

        I identify as having misophonia. “People with misophonia hate certain noises — termed “trigger sounds” — and respond with stress, anger, irritation and, in extreme cases, violent rage.” Perhaps this applies to your husband? There’s not a cure but noise-cancelling headphones and a white noise app have been my saviors. (not promoting – just providing as an info source)

        1. AbaDab*

          I think I might have this. My neighbour bouncing a basketball makes me way angrier than it should.

        2. AVP*

          Another misophoniac here! I don’t mean to diagnose any internet strangers but it came to mind immediately when I read this letter. The thing with misophonia is, your body’s natural reaction to certain noises triggers are the same reactions that you have when you’re being personally attacked – which is why it’s super stressful and hard to explain to someone who has normal reactions, and it can really feel like that neighbor with their basketball are Out To Get You.

          I’ve had this for years in various states of control, and it’s 100% worse right now because my husband and I are both working from home in the same space (his creaky office chair may actually lead to me throwing the chair out the window). Highly recommend great headphones, finding some background music or noise that blocks out other triggers, and – #1 priority in this particular case – an understanding of the condition, if one has it, that allows you to realize your partner or neighbor or whoever is not actually attacking you and it’s on you to control your reactions, not on them to be unnaturally silent all the time.

    7. GL*

      Just joining the chorus to say I feel this so hard, as a person with ADHD who seriously just moved to a quieter apartment because I could no longer take the sounds of neighbors, construction, and people on the street after 6+ months of working from home. (On the bright side, my new place is way better yet costs less!)

      That said, OP’s partner’s emphasis on whether the noise made him seem unprofessional seemed like a different thing to me. But maybe what he really means isn’t that the noise itself seems unprofessional, but that he’s anxious that he’s coming across as unprofessional because he’s unable to maintain his focus through it. I’d be curious to know which it is, because the answer could slightly change some of the solutions (importance of blocking noise from being heard by him vs. by the person he’s talking to).

    8. LGC*

      I’m not going to lie, “is he neurodiverse” was my first thought! His reaction sounds…pretty disproportionate to what’s going on, and that could be because he’s especially sensitive to distractions (i.e., instead of getting his ducks in a row, he has squirrels and they’re at a rave), or because he’s prone to extremely rigid thinking.

      (Source: also neurodiverse, but not ADHD – I have ASD, and I can be a rhymes with witch sometimes about background noises.)

      On the other hand, I feel bad about calling it disproportionate, because that makes it sound like he shouldn’t be upset about it – and if he’s like me, he is genuinely distressed over the background noise. And LW doesn’t exactly give the context – is it mostly when he’s doing individual work that he’s upset by noise, or is it meetings? I feel like those are two separate issues.

      1. Jennifer @unchartedworlds*

        “instead of getting his ducks in a row, he has squirrels and they’re at a rave”

        haha wonderful turn of phrase!

        1. LGC*

          I can’t take credit for that – that’s a turn of phrase I got from TikTok (the sound is popular among ADHD creators to describe their state of mind). But it is amazing, though!

      2. Paperwhite*

        Well, disproportionate is about an overlarge reaction, not one that shouldn’t exist at all, isn’t it? I think if someone is screaming or ranting about the background noise, especially to a trapped audience, the answer is not to have them continue screaming or ranting unendingly because they have a reason for the discomfort, but to work on ameliorating the discomfort.

        1. Anonapots*

          It’s also about getting your reactions in line with the annoyance. There will always be minor discomforts. It won’t ever be okay to flip it on someone because of it.

          1. Nina*

            Yes, having your reactions in line with the annoyance is appropriate. However, the level of annoyance a given person experiences on encountering a given irritant is WILDLY diverse.

            I’m autistic, and I have a few interesting injuries that cause what my physiotherapist says should be pretty much constant-ibuprofen-to-stay-sane levels of pain. It literally does not register in my brain as pain. But touch my face very very lightly with anything and you’ll get my finest karate chop and then immediately witness a full-blown panic attack.

            It would be great if we could all respond to things the way you, Anonapots, deem proportionate. Unfortunately, we can’t, and saying we SHOULD is pretty darn ableist so I’d appreciate if you’d kindly not.

          2. Ace in the Hole*

            But how are you to know it’s a “minor discomfort” as opposed to a “major disturbance” or “torture?”

            I would rather be punched in the face hard enough to get a black eye than gently stroked across my neck or back. I would rather be cut so badly I need stitches or deal with the pain of a broken wrist than listen to certain kinds of noises. None of this is hyperbole – I am being 100% literal. What would be a proportionate response to getting punched in the face, breaking your wrist, or slicing your finger open? Whatever that is, that’s where you need to set the bar for proportionate response for me and certain types of sensory stimulus.

            It’s still not okay to lash out at innocent bystanders about it. Me being in distress is not a free pass to be a jerk to people around me. But it’s also important to acknowledge that the reaction may be *proportionate* even if it’s counterproductive/unacceptable/misdirected.

            I also disagree with your statement “It won’t ever be okay to flip it on someone because of it.” If I tell stop doing the thing that tortures me, explain the severity of discomfort it causes, offer suggestions for reasonable ways to accommodate, and they continue doing it… it’s absolutely okay to flip out on them. They’re knowingly causing me extreme distress. They’d better have a damn good reason for it.

        2. LGC*

          I totally agree, and that’s how I meant it. I’m just really wary of making it sound like he shouldn’t feel bad at all about it, since LW asked whether his issues were valid in the first place. (I’m also really wary of being misinterpreted, and probably a bit too much. But I felt like if I didn’t put that in, someone might accuse me of shaming LW’s partner for his reaction.)

          Probably what I should have said is that the partner’s feelings are valid, but his reaction isn’t. And also…like, it should be mostly on him to fix this, not LW.

    9. MM*

      Same thought. I can handle consistent or ongoing noise completely fine, usually (if I’m REALLY stressed there have been times when the sound of a roommate *breathing* made me feel deranged, but that’s unusual), but something unpredictable or not really expected in/appropriate to my current situation is almost physically painful.

      I’ve found I’ve become more sensitive to this sort of thing as I’ve gotten older, so something might have changed in addition to pandemic stress/going consultant. It’s possible he really literally was able to handle this better a few months ago than he is now. No excuse for going off at his partner, though.

    10. Dungeon Master of Public Administration*

      I came here to ask this exact thing! This is actually how I realized I had ADHD–I started working from home during the pandemic and was so easily distracted by the smallest noises at home. I realized pretty quickly that the intensity of my reaction was disproportionate and figured out that something else must be going on. I think it was easier to tune out background noises at work because my brain could categorize them as “work-related” in some way.

      1. Djuna*

        Yeah, the constant hum of an office means very few distinct sounds rise above it.
        The difference for me, at home, is that the baseline is so much quieter.

        A cat jumping from a window sill into a litter box made me nearly jump out of my skin on a video call with my boss the other day (silica litter is LOUD, y’all!). She just laughed, there were no stern words about me (or the 6 month old kittens who were running riot) being lacking in professionalism.

        I don’t have any sort of diagnosis, but sounds can really stress me out. I don’t tend to jump to being mad at people (or kittens!) though, but maybe that’s because I’m hyper-aware that my reactions are mine and that other people (or kittens!) are not NOISING AT me, they’re just doing their own thing.

        If LW’s partner can wrap his head around the idea of different baselines, it may help with his reactions.
        Oh, and decent noise-cancelling headphones will help too, I used them to reset my own baseline at home and still break them out if there’s an important call I can’t sit through on mute.

    11. Nita*

      Yes, this. I may have very mild ADHD (runs in the family) and background noise derails me completely. Some days in the office, I did my best to coast on easy tasks until 4 PM, and do my best work after people started filing out and it got quiet. These days, I do my best work after the toddler’s bedtime (which is 11 PM some days, sob) and am a nervous wreck during the day, even if my husband is running interference and no one is physically jumping all over me. I wonder if noise-cancelling headphones would solve the problem to an extent.

      1. Tini*

        I love noise-cancelling headphones. I use them without music for getting work done during the day when my spouse is on kid duty.

      1. KayDeeAye*

        That’s a really good point. Something has changed, and I don’t think it’s his ADHD status.

        1. Dezzi*

          There’s a lot of difference between “office noise” and “home noise.” Also, if he has ADHD or is on the autism spectrum, having to learn to work and focus in a completely different environment is HARD. The structure and routines of the office that helped him stay focused and centered are gone, and neurodivergent people Do Not Do Well when we lose our routines. Finally, a lot of autistic people also have trouble generalizing–they may be able to do something in one specific environment/context, but not in another.

          Combine any of those things with the sheer stress of the past eight months, and you’re completely screwed. Autistic people & people with ADHD almost universally have some degree of sensory processing issues, and they get sooooooo much worse when we’re stressed. When I’m doing well, I can write a report with people yelling in the next room. These days? I have trouble if there’s another human speaking within fifty feet of me. (Obviously, this is on me to manage, not my partner/roommates!)

    12. Lobsterp0t*

      I literally came here to say this. This is how I have to fight to react when there’s noises. Stupid noises. Pesky and normal noises. But something is overwhelming his focus – whether it’s brain stuff or other stuff who can say? But I have ADHD and I can’t filter stuff out

    13. Another ADHDer*

      I’m a teacher with ADHD, and that was my first thought as well. I get so irritated with my fiance for even just getting something from our room while I’m live with the kids. It’s not that he’s doing anything wrong, but I completely lose my focus if something takes my eyes away from the screen and it affects my performance. I can cope with things you’d expect to encounter in a classroom (pens clicking, kids talking, etc.), but anything that takes me out of teacher mode completely stops my train off thought.

    14. MCMonkeyBean*

      That was my first thought too. Obviously this is way too little information to suggest that is definitely what is happening, but I was just diagnosed this past year and when I was researching whether I might have it I was very surprised that “is more annoyed by sounds than other people” was on the list. That is a big thing for me. I feel like at least once a day I find myself saying to my husband “What’s that sound? Do you not hear it? It’s so annoying!”

    15. Mishlemash*

      I’m on the autism spectrum and find noises extremely upsetting when I’m concentrating hard and my first thought was “that guy sounds like he has something to talk through in therapy about neurodivergence.”

  3. AJ*

    I’d suggest trying to have a chat with your partner about his mental health. As someone who suffers from anxiety issues, which have been exeracerbated by events of the last few months, I can relate to the increased sensitivity to background noises. Anxiety can cause a great deal of difficulty in concentrating, and when you’re struggling to focus every bit of extraneous sensory input can feel like an overwhelming distraction.
    If something like that is affecting him at the moment, just opening up about it may be very helpful. Good luck!

    1. Jane of all Trades*

      Second this! I struggle with anxiety, and the added stress from covid causes me to overreact when small things (such as background noises) are not within my control. I think the issue is that the predictable things that give me stability have largely disappeared (eg office v home separation, schedule, going to the gym), and then I react disproportionately if the smaller things I had counted on that day also fall away.

      I think everybody is dealing with background noises these days. I work in a high pressure, high intensity environment and the type of noise you describe certainly wouldn’t have any impact on anybody’s standing at my job.

    2. Diahann Carroll*

      As someone who suffers from anxiety issues, which have been exeracerbated by events of the last few months, I can relate to the increased sensitivity to background noises.

      Same here. I live in a huge apartment complex in the middle of a city’s downtown region, so noise is just going to happen. I’ve lived with it for nearly a decade, even when I worked in an office and not in my dining area.

      But now that we’re in the middle of this pandemic with no end in sight, and I don’t leave my house for anything other than emergencies, I’m stuck inside all day so these noises are annoying me way more than they would if I had the ability to go outside and take a walk somewhere I can’t hear the maintenance team working on the apartment below me (which I’m dealing with right now – grrrr).

      1. Christina*

        OMG yes the noise living in an apartment right now, not being able to get out/away from it is becoming rage-inducing for me, so I totally feel for the husband. In my case, I’ve moved my desk to my porch as much possible this summer and prefer the ambient neighborhood noise (dogs barking, birds chirping, even building construction) to my upstairs neighbor’s stomping around while I’m on calls or trying to write. I never thought hearing a vacuum on hardwood floors could raise my blood pressure this high, but here we are.

        It’s not helped by the fact that, when I asked him to just be a bit more conscientious and offered to buy him a thicker rug pad, he flipped out and refused to speak to me after telling me I was being antagonistic and offensive because he worked for a high-end furniture company and how dare I suggest he buy a rug pad?

        It’s definitely a “bitch eating crackers” level of crazy (one of my favorite phrases I’ve ever learned from this site, where I know he’s not stomping “at” me, but it sure feels like it.

        It’s going to be a fun winter.

        1. Diahann Carroll*

          to my upstairs neighbor’s stomping around while I’m on calls or trying to write. I never thought hearing a vacuum on hardwood floors could raise my blood pressure this high, but here we are.

          You are ME right now! I reported my upstairs neighbor so many times because this douchenozzle thinks it’s totally okay to run his loud ass washer and dryer after midnight on a work night, stomp around and slam things on the floor at all hours (I swear he pulled up the carpeting in his apartment because I never heard my previous upstairs neighbors when they lived there), and just be generally obnoxious. After he was sent two warning letters from management telling him that if he didn’t cut it out, they’d proceed with eviction (I recorded his noise on my iPhone and sent them the audio), he’s gotten better about the noise – but it shouldn’t have even had to get to that point in the first place. You know you live above and next to other people – knock it the eff off and try not to be a nuisance.

          1. Jaybeetee*

            We’re veering from the topic here, but it may be possible you have a building problem, not (just) a neighbour problem. My mother and I, living in our own places, have both had issues with a downstairs neighbour who started getting upset about “noise” that was us just… walking around or living in our apartments. (In my mother’s case, the neighbour complained about her cats running around the place, the TV being too loud, etc. In my case, the neighbour started complaining he could hear my computer chair rolling late at night, that he could hear me walking, etc. In both cases we put down carpet, to no avail. In both cases, the neighbours had mental health issues that were flaring up. I’m both cases, our landlords thought the complainers were being unreasonable.)

            But the noises you’re describing sound like just… general living noises, not loud partying or anything really obnoxious. At least my own experience, having moved around a lot, is if “walking around” noises are loud enough to disturb, the building construction was usually pretty shoddy.

            1. Diahann Carroll*

              It’s not the building – like I said before, I never heard my upstairs neighbors that lived in the unit before him and they were there longer than I was (and left when I had been in my apartment for nearly two years). He tore the carpet up, I’m pretty sure of it. And I didn’t even get into all the other obnoxious, loud party noise that was happening (because yes, he and his guests were screaming with his balcony door wide open, right above mine). I also don’t hear my neighbor next to me or across the hall from me – sometimes people are just inconsiderate assholes.

            2. Christina*

              In my case, it’s the challenges of an older building with not much insulation between floors, so I get there’s a level of it just being the side effect of living beneath someone, but this neighbor is also just an inconsiderate jerk, who also waters his porch plants by literally dumping a bucket of water on them (and me) and saying well, that’s the consequence of living below someone.

    3. Granger*

      @AJ – OH MY GOSH, YES ^^^^^^
      Personally, I’ve pretty much always been a walking, talking bundle of anxious nerves and 2020 ytd has me more on edge than ever, and the connection you’re making between what is likely SO’s (increased) anxiety coupled with working in a different environment really reflects what I’ve experienced and it seems like a fit with what the SO is trying – so far unsuccessfully – to cope with.

    4. cncx*

      yup, i have anxiety and my cat licking himself is enough to make me melt down when i wfh. anxiety was my first thought. slike you said, sometimes just opening the conversation helps to deal with it.

    5. Kristobel*

      This is exactly what it sounds like to me. We’re all in a state of heightened anxiety anyway, and our brains just can’t process anything. I find myself getting irrationally upset about people asking me questions about my reporting over email – which used to be one of my favorite parts of my job! I loved being a resource for people! Now it just enrages me, and I know that’s only because I’m stressed beyond belief. So for me, it’s (entirely reasonable) questions, sounds like for him, it’s background noise. Anything you can do to relieve stress – meditation, exercise, just staring at the trees for a while, whatever – will help.

  4. 7.12*

    i really don’t like that he’s losing it *at you* when he’s upset by things that have nothing to do with you. not to mention devaluing your work by calling it less intense??? even if it is, that’s just a wack thing to say and he needs to knock ALL of this off.

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        … even when OP is not there apparently! But this is a relationship issue, not a work issue.

    1. Talley*

      Yes! This! Investigate underlying issues, but also evaluate if you’ve missed some red flags. Hoping it all turns out well, regardless!

      1. bluephone*

        Yes to all of this. Frankly, he could have alllll the conditions–ADHD, ASD, male PMS, it’s-a-day-ending-in-Y-and-I-have-to-ugh-WORK Syndrome…but he still needs to not be a jackass to his partner. Get some noise-canceling headphones, walk the dog before meetings, whatever needs to happen but he needs to grow up ASAP and behave like an adult.

        1. Paperwhite*

          Yeah, that often bugs me about these discussions, where the consensus seems to be “Person A has this issue so they are justified in abusing Person B”.

          LW, you wrote in to ask about your SO’s problem, which is caring and considerate of you, but remember to extend that care to yourself as well. You have no obligation to be a verbal (or otherwise!) punching bag. Good luck with this.

        2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          I second that! especially walking the dog first! The dog can’t help it, and it’s only as good as the person who trained it too.

    2. SuperDiva*

      Agreed. An occasional rant to (not at) your partner is normal. But it sounds like he’s “losing it” frequently at the OP about an issue that’s out of her control, and he’s making no attempt to do anything about it. That all needs to stop.

      1. Jennifer Juniper*

        Maybe the OP can express empathy towards her husband and validate his feelings by saying something like “I’m so sorry you’re going through (name specific background noise) right now. I can’t begin to imagine how difficult this must be for you, sweetie.”

        Husband rants. OP quietly listens.

        OP could then express empathy and validation again, and then say, “How can I assist you?”

        I do this with my wife when she’s upset or angry.

    3. 3DogNight*

      I did have a concern over him devaluing the work OP does, along with him telling OP about how horrible these disturbances are when they return from work.
      OP, this isn’t your problem to solve. As any good partner would, you can offer suggestions, but beyond that, it’s his to solve.

      1. Just Another Zebra*

        Same. Venting to OP is one thing, railing at OP is quite another.

        Stress and anxiety can make people behave in odd ways, but none of this is OP’s fault. Make some suggestions (the noise cancelling headphones is probably a great starting point), but I’d also ask for an apology. None of the things he’s angry about are your fault, OP, and he shouldn’t be taking it out on you.

    4. I Left One Just Like This*

      I came to say something similar. This is a red flag about his suitability as a partner. Don’t dismiss it.

      1. cncx*

        yeah my ex husband often talked about how my job was “less”
        and that’s one of the reasons he is an ex

    5. Spearmint*

      Where did you read that? I just looked over the letter again and see nothing about him “losing it” at LW, just that he complains about the noise a lot (which is annoying, but not a red flag).

        1. Myrin*

          The whole sentence is “But small noises have a huge effect too: the neighbor yakking on his cell in his driveway, street sweepers, a car horn honks, and he loses it.”. It’s certainly possible that that means he loses it at OP, but I think a more likely reading is that OP is describing her own observations (since she’s partly working from home herself and can as such easily witness her partner’s reactions) – partner will hear a car horn honk and then start ranting and raving in OP’s general vicinity, for example.

          1. EventPlannerGal*

            I agree, that’s how it reads to me too, but I do think that your intimate partner constantly ranting and raving and losing it over tiny things can still be really unpleasant and distressing even if it isn’t specifically directed at you. I have known a few short-tempered people who use that as an excuse (“oh no I’m not yelling at you I’m yelling at the TV/the photocopier/the microwave”) but after a few times that gets old. It puts you on edge and kind of forces you to soothe/placate them, and you can get into a mindet of tiptoeing around, not wanting to set them off. I think OP would be justified in asking him to rein in the ranting while she’s around even if it’s just in her general vicinity.

            1. Just Another Zebra*

              Also, even if he isn’t ranting directly at OP (which is how I read it), it’s super stressful to come home from a long day at your own job, only to have your partner launch into a tirade about barking dogs and car horns. So, yes, buy some headphones and tell him to knock it off.

            2. merp*

              agree with this. I have noticed in myself that I am more irritable during all this and small things will set me off, but even just being around another person is a reminder to tone it down and put things in perspective, let alone having them say anything. not to say that everyone is the same, but I think a basic recognition that people don’t deserve to be surrounded by yelling/irritation is important here.

    6. JJ*

      I agree, my first thought was “does this man work at the Red Flag Store?” How long until YOUR noises become the source of the rants, or are you already tiptoeing around this man? He may be stressed, he may be being held to some dumb high standards, but losing it “at you”, blaming noises for making him look professional and being rude and dismissive about your job is not ok, and is the sort of behavior abusers employ. Push back on this behavior with him, firmly, and if he’s already got you in a position where you can’t push back, GTFO.

      1. Idril Celebrindal*

        OP, please consider this, and decide whether or not this is where it is going. The devaluing of your work is a huge red flag. From your letter, it looks like he has started on the path of making you part of the noise problem, by saying that he is just so much more special, so noise is so much worse for him. If you are at all starting to feel like you can’t make noise when you are both working from home, because he might lose it at your noise, please, please, please push back now before it gets worse. Please push back against the idea that your work is less intense so your opinion doesn’t matter, because your work is important, and your opinion and perspective does matter.

        If he blows up at you over that, it tells you something really important, because if he isn’t willing to do the work to stop reacting this way, then it will likely only get worse and you need to protect yourself. I know none of us know exactly what your situation is, but I have dealt with someone who got increasingly angry at minor things and then escalated to abuse, and I am worried for you right now.

        1. JJ*

          I’m worried for OP too. We all have those days where we’re just enraged by everything for no real reason, but that’s no excuse to take it out on your partner, and it is HIS JOB TO SELF-SOOTHE and recognize/apologize if he’s snapped at you. Making it your task to soothe him is a thing abusers do. “Everything is the thing that makes him look unprofessional and/or keeps him from his work.” AKA “nothing is my fault” is also pretty narcissistic. I hope I’m reading more into this than there is; sending you good thoughts!

          1. Idril Celebrindal*

            Yep, the pattern of “everything else is making me look bad,” “all these other things are the problem,” and “therefore I need to use my partner as an outlet for all this answer that I’m blaming on everything else,” especially to the point that LW appears to be doubting their own perspective, is really concerning. Yes, Partner might be having mental health issues, or they might be neurodivergent, or any number of things, but that doesn’t make all this anger and blame-shifting ok.

      2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        I have a friend who had to wait until her partner went out shopping to be able to type a message to me. OK he had tinnitus but even so, moaning so much that she felt she couldn’t even type on her laptop is too much.
        (she met someone else and left him BTW)

    7. Lobsterp0t*

      Also came here to say this. As hard as it might be for him, this is really unfair on you. It’s clear he needs some help with whatever’s up, but that isn’t solved by yelling at you about stuff

  5. Hey Karma, Over Here*

    Yes, to second Alison. The pieces of the environment are the problem. The problem is whatever his problem with working from home is.
    Or… This is who he is and you never had to deal with it because he’d explode over seemingly little things all day, as they happened.

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      Or… This is who he is and you never had to deal with it because he’d explode over seemingly little things all day, as they happened.

      Yeah, I wonder if he was doing this when he was a regular employee working in an office and the OP didn’t see it because by the time he came home, he was tired out from ranting all day to his coworkers.

      1. TootsNYC*

        or that he didn’t feel free to rant as his coworkers, but does feel free to let loose around / at his partner. Sort of how kids will behave well for the babysitter, and melt down into a tantrum when Mom arrives because they finally feel safe.

        Or how people will mind their manners with strangers or acquaintances, because they know those people don’t have to put up with them, but they’ll be unreasonable with family because they think family can’t dump them.

    2. EvilQueenRegina*

      If it’s that that’s who he is, has it ever happened outside of work, for example if he was on a personal call and the guy next door started having his own phone conversation outside would that have bothered him? If not then it does sound WFH specific.

      1. Hey Karma, Over Here*

        I’m so curious. I wonder if OP never connected this to him getting upset when restaurant service is bad because it happens, it passes and he’s fine. This saved up, every indignancy (is that right?) blow up might just be a matter of scale.

  6. Cordoba*

    This sounds like the partner’s issue to manage, and not something LW needs to really worry about unless there’s a specific thing they’re doing that contributes to a real (rather than imaginary) work problem for partner.

    Next time he gets to ranting, try something like “I get that you’re upset because somebody honked their horn while you were working. I can’t do anything about that. Perhaps you should purchase some nose-canceling headphones and a sound-activated mic?”

    If this dude is just ranting and not taking any steps to resolve the issues there’s no reason that LW needs to repeatedly be an audience for him.

    1. Hey Karma, Over Here*

      OP, THIS!
      He is unable to function as an adult with a job. He collects everything that upsets him throughout the day and dumps it on your head.
      That’s his solution. He’s not writing for help with dealing with his WFH situation.
      He has a solution: You.
      You want to know how to deal with the things he dumps on you.
      You are the one writing. He is the one with the problem.

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        Hey Karma, that’s a great way to put it. Showing OP whose problem it is very clearly. And also showing OP the problem they have – with their relationship.

    2. Ash*

      100%. This is *not OP’s problem to fix.* Support and encouragement, yes. But finding a “solution” to a partially made-up problem, or an irrational response to a problem: Not OP’s job.

    3. Ominous Adversary*

      Or: “Wow, that must be tough. What do you think you could do to help with those distractions?”

      Partner is a grown adult works in tech, so he has undoubtedly heard of noise-canceling headphones. He has colleagues also working from home, so he can easily ask them (or search online) for ways to handle the very ordinary background noises people working from home have had to deal with for a long time.

      The dynamic where Partner rants about a problem, then OP takes the burden of coming up with solutions to try and fix it so he isn’t a ranty jerk at/around her, is not a healthy one, and frankly just gives him the opportunity to vent more.

    4. Anne Elliot*

      This. OP, this is a “him” problem and not a “you” problem. These are his current working conditions and he needs to manage them or manage his response to them, regardless of what causes his reactions. As a supportive partner or friend, there certainly is scope for you to either sympathize or help brainstorm suggestions, but there’s also a point at which it is reasonable for you to refuse to continue to be his rant recipient/ frustration receptacle.

      1. Lexi*

        And if he gets to the point that he demands you get rid of the dog, keep the dog, ditch him, you’ll be happier in the long run.

        1. Anne Elliot*

          “New boyfriend is allergic to kittens so can’t keep him. He’s ginger and named Tom, very friendly, comes when called. 28 years old and works in IT.”

    5. cabbagepants*

      I might not even make a recommendation, but just 1) sympathize; and 2) empower. “That really sucks, sweetie. What do you think you’ll do about it?” is a phrase to consider. Putting yourself in the role of needing to fix the problem may not actually serve either of your interests.

  7. Just J.*

    You know, that’s a really great point. He may be psyching himself out over how critical he imagines his clients may be. Have any of his new clients said anything? If they haven’t, ask him to place himself in his clients shoes. Would he expect another colleague or consultant to have a perfectly quiet workspace? If not, gently remind him, background noise is ok. (BTW, my last urban office was next to heavily used train tracks. When the trains ran, you couldn’t hear a thing if you were on the phone!)

    1. Koalafied*

      I agree with this. I’ve been surprised over the past few months at how much background noise *doesn’t* get picked up. A dog barking inside the house, definitely, it’s the right pitch and volume to be heard even rooms away. But I’ve had a new roof put on my house where there was a pneumatic gun firing off bolts near-constantly that only seemed to be audible to people on calls when it was directly above my desk, and I’ve had 3 different colleagues having a home remodel in their own or their neighbors house apologize and indicate they would be on mute because of “the noise” when in fact, we couldn’t hear anything on our end or could only hear if nobody was talking. There seems to really be an exponential drop-off, especially for low-pitched sounds, in how close you have to be to most computer mics for the sound to come through loudly on the other end.

      1. boop the first*

        This is gonna be barely even relevant but your comment makes me think of youtubers/podcasters too… they’re always apologizing and getting angry with their co-hosts over noises their dogs or cats or traffic is making and I don’t even freaking hear it! I DO, however, hear all the interrupting apologies/complaints though which they could honestly do without.

    2. Albatross*

      I live next to a major road. Due to time zone issues, sometimes I need to be on group calls when the drag racers are out and doing their thing, or sometimes an emergency vehicle goes past while I’m on a call. As long as I have the windows closed, the people on the other end say they can’t hear it. This is at most a few hundred feet away.

  8. Lady Heather*

    Realize that if your partner is being unreasonable, or if he’s venting at you, you don’t need to stand there and take it. You can disengage and “hmm-hmm” your way through it without listening, or you can say “How can I help”/”What are you going to do about it?” in an action-oriented way and refuse to let him vent at you for venting’s sake.

    If you don’t mind being vented at, that’s one thing. But if you don’t like it at all/don’t like it every day/don’t like it when you’re tired, you don’t have to.

  9. AnonEMoose*

    I think talking with him about what’s going on – how he’s coping generally, etc., sounds like a good idea. Besides the other suggestions, there are also machines or apps that generate a steady noise (rain, ocean waves, something) to help make background noise less distracting. But I agree with Allison and the others who’ve commented so far; it really does seem like there is something else going on.

  10. Jenny*

    I agree with Alison and I’ve seen this way too much in my professional life. One of my supervisors actually went off on me when after I had been admitted to the hospital, despite the fact that I told her I was getting a bunch of tests done and wouldn’t be back in that day. When I called her on the phone she said “if you’re well enough to be sending emails you’re well enough to be in the office!” and my reply of “Actually…I have appendicitis and need surgery, so we’re waiting for an operating room to open up” didn’t really phase her in the moment and she just kept going off on me about not being reachable for the ~2 hours I was getting imaging, an exam, and blood work. Turns out she was in the middle of an intense job search and actually left while I was on FMLA, so I never even saw her again.

    Similarly, my previous supervisor absolutely lost it on me when I expressed that I was “unsure if I would be able to get to” a particular assignment by the deadline, and asked him if we could prioritize things so that I could get to everything he wanted in the order he wanted (which is exactly what he’d asked me to do in other situations). His rationale was that he works “a lot” and therefore I should be too, and he wasn’t phased by my pointing out that I can’t see his time sheets and didn’t realize that he wanted me to put in a 13 hour day to finish everything. Turns out he knew about some layoffs at the middle management level that were about to happen, and he was in fact laid off.

    The point being, people under stress are irrational and will generally seize on whatever little thing gives them an outlet in the moment, because magnifying it is a way for them to vent out their frustrations for what’s *really* going on.

    1. Gazebo Slayer*

      Your supervisor who yelled at you for being unreachable *when you were in the hospital with appendicitis* is an awful person, and should never have authority over anyone again.

      1. Jenny*

        The whole thing was totally bizarre. That morning I woke up feeling very unwell and told her I was going to the doctor, not to work. When the doctor told me to go to the hospital, I emailed my supervisor and let her know that a) I had a high fever (so it should have been obvious I wasn’t coming back); and b) that I was going to the hospital for imaging so she should have known I would be unreachable. I sent her another email that was something to the effect of, “I’m not coming in today and will email you about tomorrow when I know more.” After switching my phone off, I switched it on again to find I had missed like six calls from her and a couple of emails. The really odd this is that it’s not like I’m an on-call fireman or a surgeon. I don’t even think I had any actual external deadlines that day. She honestly just seemed mad that I wasn’t physically in the office and she was.

      2. Paperwhite*

        This. When people are upset they say what they really mean, and I wish luck to anyone who has to deal with someone who really thinks appendicitis is no reason to be away from work.

        1. Jenny*

          I don’t think she genuinely thought that I should have been at work with appendicitis, but she was essentially trying to manufacture some reason to vent at me. The reason she gave was that I was “unreachable” while I was doing the imaging tests and getting blood drawn, though that begs the question of why she was trying to reach an employee who already said they had a high fever and was going to the hospital.

          1. Paperwhite*

            I am still annoyed at her for yelling at someone in the hospital, especially someone as understanding as you are. :)

    2. NotAnotherManager!*

      I’m often able to send emails when I have no business being in the office, and responding to a team member waiting for surgery with anything other than, “I’m so sorry, and I hope all goes well with your surgery and you’re feeling better soon!” (and then looping in whatever HR resource makes sure you have all you need in terms of healthcare support and FMLA leave) is psychopathic. That’s awful, and I think I’d be terminated for behavior well short of that – at minimum, removed from a management role.

      1. Anne Elliot*

        I shoot off emails all the time because if I don’t, then I have 500 emails, a hole to climb out of, and a higher risk of missing something. Not saying anyone else should ever be like this, but I’m probably the one emailing “Okay the anesthesiologist is putting the mask on now, we’ll pick this up later.” All of which is to say, that someone saying “If you can email, you can be in the office” would be super-bizarre to me, because I can email until the rigor mortis hits my texting thumbs, but that sure as heck doesn’t mean I can be or should be at work.

      2. MsChanandlerBong*

        I was sending emails from an ER gurney in the middle of a heart attack*, so I hear where you’re coming from. But I certainly wouldn’t have been able to make calls or do anything requiring my full attention.

        *Because my employer only gives us 10 PTO days for the year, no separate sick or personal time, and I had already used my other days on ER visits and doctor appointments. No one MADE me send emails, but I couldn’t afford to take the unpaid time off, especially considering that heart attack left me with nearly $10,000 in medical bills.

        1. Emma*

          God, I’m so sorry you were in that position. It’s amazing the abuse that employers will engage in if they think they can get away with it (which they often can, of course)

  11. Scott*

    Being affected by noise to this degree may link to a medical condition. For example, I have misophonia. Sounds trigger an emotional reaction in me that probably seem outlandish to others. I cannot sit and listen to someone eat. Coffee slurping drives me nuts. I had to move desks at work because an overhead vent vibrated sometimes. I’m a writer and like to write in public places, but put me within 30 feel of someone with the sniffles or a loud typer and I’ll get too frustrated to get a sentence down.

    This can also be linked to autism and other conditions.

    Just a few possible leads to check out.

    1. NeverNicky*

      I was just coming here to suggest this. Other terms to investigate may be collapsed sound tolerance or hyperacusis – they are all very slightly different definitions for interlinked conditions.

      There are management strategies which can help – sound therapy and cognitive behavioural therapy are generally tried – and noise cancelling headphones can help.

      In the UK, hearing therapists or audiologists would be the professionals to approach.

      (I’m not medically qualified but I work/research in this field)

    2. Momma Bear*

      I have days where any noise is like an ice pick to the brain. He may want to talk to a doctor about his health and/or hearing. Misophonia can be a symptom of many conditions, from ADHD to anxiety to fibromyalgia. He may also need to invest in good noise-canceling headphones.

      Secondarily, depression in men can be manifest in being extra irritable and even aggression, in part because men don’t express emotions like sadness as often as women. LW may want to encourage him to talk to a therapist about his stress/feelings.

      I don’t think it’s really about LW…or the dog…or the neighbor. Venting about noises is cover for something else.

      1. Elfie*

        Just saying, depression in women can also manifest as irritability and anger – I’m a woman, and my husband knows before I do when my depression is flaring up by how irritable/irrationally angry I am.

        1. Tabby*

          Or, possibly, anxiety. Mine manifests in irritability/irrational anger at minor things (although, often this comes with the cachet that people will often do 15 very minor, irritating things, and are warned they are approaching the end of my patience, then do a 16th and are surprised when I explode. Like, dude, I told you 15 times you need to stop, why are you surprised now? Strangely, this doesn’t happen with that one irritating dog at my job who I’ve nicknamed ‘Velcro’… she is forever attaching herself to me. With her /teeth/. Grabbing my hands, my clothes, my earbud line I use with my walkie so I can hear the shift lead over the dogs… then it’s always, “VELCRO, GO AWAY I CANNOT WITH YOU.” People, please train your dogs to not do this, it’s aggravating, not cute!).

    3. Diahann Carroll*

      I strongly suspect I have this as well because I hear EVERYTHING and, these days especially, it drives me up a wall.

  12. Quill*

    This could pretty easily be stress based: I know when I’m under stress sudden loud noises are 1) way louder to me than they objectively are 2) capable of ruining my concentration for an extended period of time.

    Especially if your partner feels like their job is threatened due to working from home or an unreasonable boss, the chronic stress is getting to people (and has been for months.)

  13. KWu*

    I work in tech and have worked remotely for the last 3.5 years. There’s a lot of discussion in the tech world about how focus is important, you need quiet to focus, etc. but this also seems like outsized reactions to me and like it’s become a fixation/convenient scapegoat for any other concerns around working as a consultant vs. an employee. Even a halfway decent set of headphones/microphone will minimize at least the small noises and any client who actually blames a consultant for random car honks and not having a soundproof room is entirely unreasonable. Google Meet has also introduced an audio option to try to minimize background noise further.

  14. Cori*

    My husband is on a shorter than usual fuse and when I talked to him about it last week he just told me how frustrated he is with everything right now, but he didn’t see how short-tempered he had become. He saw them as isolated incidents, which technically they were, but they were not spaced out in the way he thought. Instead of losing his cool every couple of months, it was now almost every week and sometimes more than once a week. I let it ride at first, thinking it would pass, but when it did not, I sat down with him and we have come up with some strategies that he, I and we, can take. Communication is key though. Calm communication, I should say.

    1. SomebodyElse*

      I think this is me right now :( I’m able to exert patience at work, but if I’m honest there’s none left at the end of the day for home.

      Which is why I’ve been figuratively hiding in a corner outside of work times for the last week or two.

    2. Joielle*

      Ugh, I think this is me too. I get so irritated over small things these days. It’s like I can feel it happening and I know it’s unreasonable but I can’t stop it. I’ve been short with my poor husband way too many times and he’s not even doing anything wrong (other than being home 24/7 when I am also home 24/7)! It’s a rough time all around but I really need to do better.

    3. Keymaster of Gozer*

      This was one of the first signs my husband later admitted to noticing before my epic breakdown earlier this year. I’d started doing things like raging or sobbing over noise from outside like ‘kids screaming’ or ‘car alarms’. Not usual behaviour for me at all. I didn’t see it was a symptom of my steadily worsening mind.

      (Things like car alarms can trigger off my epilepsy but normally I’ll just stuff earplugs in. Not cry so hard I throw up)

    4. Stephanie*

      Yeah, I’d agree everyone is much more short-tempered now. I’m usually pretty even keeled and I’ve snapped at work a few times.

  15. Brownstag*

    Does he have auditory processing disorder? I’d get him a white noise machine and better headset.

  16. Purt’s Peas*

    It may be a kindness to sit down with him and figure out what is actually coming through his microphone: some setup where you have a slack/skype/zoom call going, you’re on his microphone, and he’s able to listen to it from “the other end”. If he opens and shuts a door, is that audible? Can he hear cars going by? Etc.

    I suspect that this is stress. And, if he normally has some trouble internalizing other people’s perspectives, it’s even more difficult to do remotely. If he hears a sound, then other people must hear it! When in fact these sounds often don’t make it through headsets; it’s just hard to imagine that’s the case.

  17. Wanda*

    I’ve generally found that when people apologize for background noise on a Zoom call, I generally am confused because I can’t hear it (unless they’re on a phone or actively talking to someone else). These general noises are much louder to you than to the other person. If they are genuinely a problem, there are directional mics that will only pick up sound in a certain direction that will clean up the sound for the other person. He can deduct it from his taxes.

    1. Ali G*

      Yeah I think the OPs husband may assume that since he can’t hear background noise from others on calls, that he is the only loud one. In reality, a lot of background noise is either so inconsequential (a car honk – isolated) or others really can’t hear it. I literally was on calls the day they were digging up and repaving the street right outside my window and everyone on my calls swore they couldn’t hear a thing.

      1. JustaTech*

        This has been my experience too. My coworker was on a call (no video, thank goodness) using some airpods and her dog threw up right next to her. The only thing we could here was my coworker saying “It’s alright, it’s alright, you’re a good girl”.

    2. Bilateralrope*

      If directional mics aren’t enough, there are software solutions as well. RTX Voice looks like it works really well, if you have one of the supported graphics cards:

      If you don’t, but you’re into PC Gaming, it sounds like you could get a tax deduction on a PC upgrade that you’ll be wanting anyway.

  18. Just another lurker*

    He needs a headset. My employer got me one and it was so awesome that my husband got himself one. It makes all the difference in remote work. Nobody hears my beagle howling at the neighbor’s dog anymore.

    It is my opinion that he is overreacting but it doesn’t matter bc this should completely fix the issue, if the issue is that he is afraid that background noise makes him sound unprofessional.

    1. Ann O'Nemity*

      Yes, I’m super surprised he doesn’t have a headset or something. He’s in tech; there are tech solutions to his background noise problems. In fact, I almost expect people in tech to have fancy looking headphones and mics at this point in the pandemic.

    2. NotAnotherManager!*

      Headset was the answer for our easily-distracted, ADHD kid. They put their headset on, and they’re much better able to pay attention to class and focus because they can’t hear as much outside noise.

    3. Chinook*

      You can use a trick from theatre design. I hung a blackout curtain on a shower rod outside my door because the cat was always scratching it to getin or out. I was able to leave the door open enough for the cat and it blocked all the noise leaking through the hollow interior door (which is important since DH does shift work and he could hear me talk).

  19. MK*

    Unless this person recently moved to a populated area from the middle of nowhere, his reaction doesn’t make sense. It’s possible that he feels that now he is freelance, everything reflects on his professionalism in a way that it didn’t when he was an employee and had little control on his workplace, but this level of intensity is concerning. He may want to re-evaluate whether he is suited to self-employment if he can’t handle the stress (assuming it was his own choice).

    1. Nita*

      It could be that his home is much noisier than his office. My place is very noisy. It used to only bother me a little, because I usually didn’t try to work while listening to the noise. Now… I’m trying to speak in meetings while there are workmen drilling into a wall two stories above me. I’m trying to read 500 pages of data while the kids are fighting loudly over an eraser, and one of them is also practicing silly voices. I’m listening to a train screech past my window, sounding like a chorus of tormented souls, every 20 minutes. I have a lot of sympathy for OP’s boyfriend lol. I do think he needs to do something about it instead of venting at OP, though. Headphones? Noise-cancelling stuff in the house (curtains or wall hangings)? Leaving the house to work somewhere quiet, if this is a possibility? There are other solutions too, but they’re on the expensive side – noise-proof windows for example.

    2. Malarkey01*

      I can’t speak for every office, and now with CoVid all bets are off, but in the “before times” at my company normal office background was fine because you’re where “the office” is and don’t have some higher standard, but telework had a different standard and needed to be virtually silent. People with barking dogs were especially frowned upon for some reason.

      It’s possible that some of that older expectations are hanging on, but seriously at this point if there is t a clown and live monkey in the video feed I don’t bat an eye.

  20. Janon*

    As someone who suffers from anxiety, and it would come out as me being mad at others before I realized what was going on and how to manage it, this sounds so familiar. Any deviation from what I expected could set me off. It still can, but I learned my triggers and early warning signs so I can manage. The current situation with COVID and political mess if you are in the US is really a lot for people to keep dealing with every day so that can be bringing out an issue that had not been prevalent before. I’d really see how to get him some help for managing anxiety.

    1. Granger*

      I agree, Janon. Whether or not SO suffers from anxiety sans COVID / work from home, employing coping skills that are often successfully used by anxiety sufferers would likely provide a great deal of relief, and could easily be used in conjunction with other solutions.

    2. ThatGirl*

      Irritability can also be a symptom of depression. The point though is that it’s a symptom and something else is going on.

    3. it's me*

      I just started on Lexapro for anxiety and depression and it’s really helped rachet down my reactions to annoying noises.

  21. Turquoisecow*

    It sounds like he’s seriously stressed about something at work and he can’t express himself about that for some reason – either because he doesn’t know how to express himself in a reasonable manner (without exploding) or he’s dealing with an unreasonable coworker or boss – so he’s taking his stress and frustration out on small things like dogs barking, and blowing up at OP.

    Maybe he’s got unreasonable expectations looming over him at work or maybe he just always reacts this way to stress, regardless it isn’t a good coping method. He can’t control dogs barking outside, nor can OP, and blowing up at his partner is just going to make things terrible in the long run.

    OP, call him out on this. In a calmer moment, point out that his method for handling stress isn’t helping either of you, and he needs to work for solutions. It’s up to him if he takes any of the great suggestions offered here, all you can do is suggest them. You don’t have to accept being yelled at for things beyond your control! Then in the moment, when he starts ranting about the neighbors on the phone, tell him calmly about how you discussed this and you’re not going to accept his behavior, and leave the room.

    I hope things improve for both of you! It’s terrible to be blamed for things beyond your control, and it doesn’t sound like either of you is at all happy with the situation.

    1. Kiki*

      I agree. I don’t want to immediately dismiss the possibility that he’s genuinely become very sensitive to noise or that his clients are unusually finicky about background noise, but it sounds to me like he’s distracting himself from larger sources of stress by fixating on something smaller or easier to complain about. Sometimes when I’m working on an overwhelming project at work, I become hell-bent on something random, like eradicating plastics from my home or figuring out how to repurpose empty candle containers. This seems like that to me.

      For LW, I would:
      1) Remind yourself that the battle against noise is not yours to fight. Leave solving this up to your partner.
      2) Sit down and talk with your partner. Ask if there’s something bigger going on, point out that his stress and constant venting are concerning you, and establish some boundaries about reasonable noise and his venting. Talk about potential solutions/ mitigation techniques and make sure they’re actions HE must take (getting a noise-cancelling headset or sound-dampening curtains, not demanding absolute silence from you, your dogs, and neighbors).

      And LW, for what it’s worth: I work a “demanding” tech job where people spend a lot of time talking about the necessity of silence and/or ideal soundscapes and I still think it’s really condescending he would say his job is more demanding than yours.

  22. juliebulie*

    I can tolerate some background noise, even benefit from it, as long as I can control it. Like, having the TV tuned to reruns (not too loud) to screen out street noise. But something that I can’t control at all, like a barking dog, or my neighbor’s fondness for UB40’s Red Red Wine (multiple times every effing day all summer long, wicked loud, WHY????), I just lose it. My train of thought, that is.

    For me, it was much worse in the office, because there were a lot of LOUD VOICES. (Also, landscapers outside with leaf blowers. Heaven forbid that a piece of dead vegetation should litter our precious pavement.) I can drown those out listening to Anthrax on headphones, but having loud Anthrax in my ears doesn’t do much for my concentration either. And if I absentmindedly begin to sing along, hoo boy.

    At home though, most of that does’t matter. I can close a window or do a dozen other things to mitigate the noise. So I’m a little puzzled by OP’s partner. If he was the same way in the office then I wouldn’t give this a second though, but it sounds like he’s worse at home. So, I’m thinking stress. When I’m stressed out, almost everything irritates me a lot.

    1. juliebulie*

      nesting fail. I was replying to the comment about ADHD, which I have. Though I don’t think that this kind of sound sensitivity is specific to ADHD.

      1. Zephy*

        Misophonia or auditory processing disorders can be part of the ADHD and/or Autism Experience ™. It’s all neurodiversity, at the end of the day, and just lends more credence to my personal belief that there is no “neurotypical.”

        1. Quill*

          The family brainweird turns the sound up on the world pretty often. (I call it the family brainweird because we’ve all got a similar suite of symptoms and no idea what exactly they are, or any utility in finding out based on the techniques available.)

  23. Jennifer*

    I don’t get it. Even in the office there is usually background noise. People talking or walking back and forth to the break room. Food noises. Phones pinging. I highly doubt he worked in complete silence before. And he seems to be taking his frustrations out on the OP.

    Give him Alison’s suggestions. Tell him this is his problem to solve and stop coming to you about it.

  24. Dust Bunny*

    For the record: I’m on the autism spectrum. I’m not bothered by random peripheral noises while working from home, though.

    I don’t think this even needs to be attributed to the spectrum or ADHD: It could easily be anxiety and/or general stir-craziness and he’s misdirected the stress of it to all this other stuff. I know plenty of NT people who “handle” stress by lashing out over things that aren’t actually the problem, and goodness knows we’re all more freaked out right now than we usually are. I’m holed up with my parents and I think we’re all more tired of each others’ quirks than we were when I wasn’t working from home. He may simply be somebody who is less tolerant of this kind of thing than some of us are.

    It’s possible that his employer is being an ass about background noise but if that’s not the case, your husband might be on the spectrum or ADHD, but he also might be stressed out about the job/having a less than ideal workspace/being at home all the damned time forever and ever and is handling it childishly rather than doing some introspection and adjusting. (My dad does this. He’s stressed because early voting starts this and he’s a poll judge. He swears he’s fine but he ate two enormous pieces of death-by-chocolate birthday cake yesterday, and he always hoovers up the good treats when he’s stressed out. Then he gets mad that we hide food from him. When my mom offered to get him chocolate milk to take for lunch he declined because it “had too many calories”. Right., dude.)

    1. Dust Bunny*

      Clarification: I am bothered by background noises in general–when I took the SATs a billion years ago somebody in the back of the room sniffed every ten seconds throughout the entire exam and, y’all, that person is lucky to have survived–but I’m already accustomed to the background noises at my own home. My neighbors’ dogs bark too much and it IS annoying but it’s not enough for me to think my boss thinks I’m unprofessional. If my own theoretical dog were barking constantly in the next room, yeah, that would be a problem, but that’s not the situation here.

      1. norah*

        ha, I took Algebra II in high school and was seated next to a girl who chewed gum very loudly every day and would like, breathe through the chews. It was absolutely horrible. Gum-chewing was obviously banned at school but this girl was VERY intimidating so I never said anything to her or the teacher and instead just spent every single class unable to focus on anything besides the sound of her chewing and snapping and breathing heavily through the saliva in her mouth, and eventually failed the class. My parents to this day refuse to acknowledge that I have ADHD

  25. Batty Twerp*

    He’s used to busy open offices but derailed by distraction? Is this a new thing since the WFH, or has he always been a bit of a meerkat whenever there’s the slightest noise, even when it’s the background hum of a photocopier?
    (I realise that if you didn’t work with him in the open office, these are rather more rhetorical questions).

    If this is new, this leans heavily towards the New Normal Stresses category. Otherwise, I’d suggest there’s a longer term/permanent issue at play.

    If it’s the former, I’d approach it more gently. You don’t deserve to be his emotional vent sink, but he might not realise how his stress is manifesting itself and some more probing in the “how are you” direction and problem solving could work. As could him actually asking a trusted coworker whether he really is appearing “unprofessional” because
    a car horn honked(!)
    (Fun fact: I live under a flight path (a surprisingly quiet local one – fewer than five flights a day usually, but not on any schedule I’ve been able to work out). It makes teleconferences a little difficult with an approximately 30-60 second disturbance if a plane goes over – I’d give my left arm for just a honk! However, my commute was only a 15-minute bus journey, meaning my office is _under the same flight path_. So my company, and long-term company clients, have similar expectations of background noise pre- and post-WFH and my mute reaction time has really improved!)

    If it’s the latter, well I’m not sure there’s much you can do except tell him to knock it off when it comes to venting at you.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      Yeah, I went to a college that had a train track in close proximity. Much better than a flight path, but visiting students and new freshmen were always freaked out by the sounds of trains rumbling by at regular intervals.

      1. Batty Twerp*

        Oh, it gets better – previous office was right next to the train tracks (as in the car park and the rails were separated by a chain link fence) and one regular train driver knew his girlfriend worked in our office so would sound the train horn as he went past!
        At least that was regular – chuff-chuff-chuff-nee-nah! 2:45pm, there goes Annie’s boyfriend!

  26. Zephy*

    This isn’t a work problem, it’s a partner problem. Like others have speculated, he might have a diagnosable Thing going on – that’s his business and his responsibility to bring up with a healthcare professional, if he chooses to. What he’s doing instead is vomiting all of his feelings about it at you, LW, which is obviously not helping. This isn’t actually your problem to solve – you’re well within your rights both as a person and as his partner to say “That sounds really frustrating, maybe you should talk to [someone who is not me] about it” and leave it at that.

    1. Things That Make You Go Hmm*

      I found this in an article by Hara Estroff Marano at “Anger doesn’t automatically dissipate by being unleashed. We rarely experience catharsis. Venting it in words or action doesn’t make anger easier to manage; often it only increases the intensity of the feeling. Anger often feeds on itself. Plus, by furthering aggression it often brings irreversible damage to those in the immediate vicinity.”

  27. Cat-Soup*

    Oh, I feel for this guy (and also his partner)! I have some kind of sensory issues that can make noises unbearable–it’s like having a migraine, but instead of pain at every small noise it’s intense irritation and reactivity. For me it does get worse with stress, or if I’m particularly burned out. The only way I’ve found to deal with it is 1. Anti-anxiety/anti-stress strategies when I can’t get away from noise and 2. Very controlled soothing sounds (preferably with headphones) and isolation until my brain winds back down.

    I need absolute silence for certain brain-intensive tasks, so thankfully I haven’t chosen those as a career! But it’s worth trying white noise or calming music, and maybe suggesting a couple sessions with a therapist to find ways to self-soothe through it. In my experience, every moment of active irritation makes the sound sensitivity worse, so I can spiral very badly if I let myself stew in annoyance.

  28. CJ*

    Even if he doesn’t have some form of ADHD, some of the adaptive behaviors for it that are currently all over the web might help!

  29. Clorinda*

    He’s got some kind of stress-triggered misophonia or something similar. Perhaps he’s had some mild form of one of the conditions others have suggested, and the stress has taken away his ability to cope.
    While the exact diagnosis might be interesting to know, it really isn’t important. He needs to work on himself, because we live in a world with noise, and there will be noise. Maybe that means getting a real diagnosis and treatment, maybe it means learning some relaxation techniques, maybe that means taking a long walk when he feels his stress level rising to the trigger point.
    But these are things only he can do. OP can’t do them.

  30. Ailsa McNonagon*

    Not to give an armchair diagnosis (although in a previous life I WAS an MH professional!) but is it possible that your partner may be autistic?

    My partner is autistic (although not diagnosed until his late thirties) and he CANNOT tolerate noise that I don’t even notice; we have loud neighbours and thin walls, and while I can tune them out he becomes enraged by their noise- so much so that we are going to have to move out of this house. He is completely unable to tune out human noise (children playing, people talking) while mechanical noise doesn’t bother him- he says the mechanical noise tends to be a regular pattern, whereas the human noise is unpredictable. The unpredictability makes him feel unsafe, and feeling unsafe makes him melt down- he will shout and slam doors if next door are being loud (so 95% of the time) because he is so overwhelmed.

    All this to say, your partner might not be being ‘dramatic’- he might really hear things you don’t notice, and it might be too much for him to bear on top of all the uncertainty of working from home.

    1. Dwight Schrute*

      Your partner is not alone! While I don’t have autism, or at least haven’t been diagnosed with it ever, I do have bad anxiety that makes me very noise sensitive. My partner and I actually moved this summer in part because of noise! We lived in a townhouse for two years, the first year we never heard our neighbors. The second year we got new neighbors and good god I couldn’t stand it. Bass music thumping through our walls at all hours, all day and all night, enough that it would vibrate the walls. A loud child that would screech and run around totally unattended outside for hours on end. I could not deal with it. My boyfriend could barely even hear the bass! I was mystified since it literally took over my ability to concentrate on anything else when I could hear it

    2. norah*

      yep, this is sort of the crux of the issue and what makes it SO hard to explain to others. Having to be subject to other people’s noises in what is ostensibly “your” space makes it not feel like it’s your own anymore, and when you’re on the spectrum that can be so, so debilitating.

  31. Elle by the sea*

    I guess he might just be stressed out by the work-from-home arrangement and the same noises don’t bother him in the office. Another possibility is that the new appointment stresses him out: when you get a new job or are promoted to a new position, first you tend to be too pedantic about external factors and various potential distractions. And as you are getting more comfortable and adjusted, this sort of anxiety will slowly disappear. This is quite common.

  32. Free Meerkats*

    Maybe buy him a Get Smart Cone of Silence?

    Beyond that, this is a Him problem and not a You problem. When he starts going off about something you have no control over, tell him to stuff it and go on with your day.

  33. Dwight Schrute*

    I’m going to guess there’s something else going on. I have pretty bad anxiety, and just started medication for it this week, but have been in therapy for almost 2 years now. When my anxiety is bad I’m SUPER sensitive to things that most people would shrug off and can have a very disproportionate reaction to little things. It’s something I’ve been able to manage better with therapy and now I’m hoping meds can help me be less bothered by such small things. Maybe gently suggest some therapy, if nothing else, it’s helpful to learn new coping strategies and ways to deal with stress!

  34. H. Regalis*

    OP, I don’t think it’s your job to play Problem Detective here. Your partner is an adult. Whatever is going on that is making him so angry, he needs to fix himself. He shouldn’t be taking his stress out on you and this is not something you can or should be fixing for him. He’s not a kid and you’re not his mother. How he’s treating you right now is not okay and you shouldn’t have to put up with that shit.

  35. 9to4ever*

    The noise is making ME crazy! I have three kids at home, construction, car alarms, Microsoft Teams ringing off the hook, and when my husband is home, he WHISTLES. Constantly. And snaps his fingers. And turns pages loudly.

    But, it’s not cool to lose it at your partner because you’re irritated at the world. Noise-cancelling headphones fortunately were invented pre-pandemic!

  36. Ominous Adversary*

    “Everything is the thing that makes him look unprofessional and/or keeps him from his work.”

    This here is the real problem. He isn’t just complaining about interruptions or distractions. He’s using these things as exaggerated excuses: he can’t work, he looks unprofessional, and it’s always the fault of something else that, conveniently, nothing can be done about, and then he rants about it.

  37. DLW*

    While I’m pretty sure there’s something deeper going on than just annoyance at normal working-from-home background noise, to the extent that the background noise is the actual problem, the solution is noise cancelling headphones. I highly recommend Bose Quiet Comfort. Expensive, but totally worth it.
    I’ve been working from home since March. I’m a law clerk. I’m writing judicial opinions. It requires a lot of concentration. There’s the sound of the tv from upstairs. There’s kids playing outside. There’s mowing day (live in a townhouse). There was two weeks where they were doing work on our chimneys. While the headphones don’t block out all of it, they block out almost all of it. Couldn’t work without them.

  38. norah*

    I have immense empathy for him, tbh. I’ve got the whole range: misophonia, ADHD, AND autism, so I am all too familiar with being unable to control my anger & frustration with noises beyond my control. It doesn’t always make sense, either: for instance, if I know when a noise is taking place and when it will end, I can handle it with no problem. The noise itself isn’t the entire issue, it’s the uncertainty. Double that when the noise is being produced by someone or something I’m already frustrated with – an anonymous upstairs neighbor provokes a much less strong reaction than say, having to live in my parents’ basement and listening to my dad pace and drop things on the floor above me all day. Add on to that the emotional circumstances surrounding the issue: I was frustrated at myself for having to live at home, which made me particularly emotionally volatile. Your husband is probably frustrated that this is month 7 of the pandemic and his job is stressful as hell.

    Unfortunately I can’t offer much of a solution because this is something I’m still dealing with myself and it’s only gotten progressively worse over the years. I now live in my own apartment – top floor, corner unit, facing away from the street – and was ok with ambient street noise and the sound of the elevator clanging around right next to my bedroom, but the biggest problem – the one that makes me want to break my lease and move to Antarctica – is the sound of the children next door with a predilection for screaming all. day. long. I don’t know how their lungs handle it. No amount of white noise or noise-canceling or playing my own music nice and loud will curb it. It’s great!!!

    1. Dan*

      I have sympathies too. I live alone, so I’m the only one who has to deal with my own sh!t, so there’s that…

      But the office is no panacea either. Right before the pandemic hit, my office got relocated… right next to the bathrooms. I could hear *every* toilet flush. And there was something about the acoustics of the office where people could stand outside the bathroom and chat in appropriate volume voices, but I could hear every. single. word of their very “inside voice” conversation. It was weird. And I was really contemplating asking for an office change.

      With my PC, I turn my speakers off unless I’m on a call. But then… Outlook wants to send an audio and visual alert, skype the same, teams the same, and slack the same. Drives me insane. I also go bonkers if I start hearing a bunch of alerts from my coworkers’ devices during a call.

      I don’t know why, but unexpected audio is really jarring to me.

      Don’t get me wrong, OP’s BF needs to treat OP with decency and respect, or he needs to find somewhere else to live. But the “I’m not bothered so I don’t see why he’s bothered” isn’t really the messaging that will be effective.

      1. norah*

        yep. Misophonia is a mental illness, and like any mental illness it is near impossible to make those who don’t have it understand what makes it so debilitating. I had my dad over helping me set up my cable and the kids next door were up to their usual antics and I said, “ugh, see what I have to deal with?” and he was like… this isn’t as bad as you were describing. I don’t see the big deal. You’re overreacting. Just ignore it.

        That almost made me more mad than the noise did!

      2. Ginger Baker*

        Sidenote, it’s a pain but you can (in each individual program, did I mention it’s a pain?) set each program to NOT give you an audio alert. It’s usually under settings>audio or settings>notifications. Signed, a hater of most alerts.

        1. Quill*

          I would adore a smartphone app that only allows SPECIFIC apps to make noise.

          Unless you are a call, a text message or my media player, you DO NOT get audio privileges!

          1. Idril Celebrindal*

            If you use Android, in the main settings they have a spot for notifications where you can go through a list and tell each app whether it can make noise, only show an icon with no sound, or is not allowed to notify you at all. I did that and it is heaven, then I told the Do Not Disturb settings that only texts and calls from specific people get to make noise at me, so spam calls are silent. ;-P

  39. The Other Dawn*

    This was me when I first started working from home. I’d done it for a day or two here and there, but switching to 100% remote indefinitely back in March/April was a huge change for me.

    I’m someone who needs relative quiet to work. I’m able to function with a normal level of office noise, but excessive noise has always been annoying and distracting to me. My solution was to run a small fan next to my desk (music was too distracting). That helped quite a bit. When I started working from home I heard lawnmowers, leaf blowers, dogs barking, cars driving by, and all the other neighborhood noises and, man, it annoyed the crap out of me. I would get extremely irritated and on edge, and have to get up and do a household chore or something until the neighbor’s landscapers finished up. Eventually we hooked up a portable AC unit since it was starting to get warmer and that drowned out almost all of the outside noise. Now that it’s fall, I’ll probably get a small fan to use.

    I really have no explanation for the irritation other than remote work being a big change. And, to me, office noise is different than neighborhood noise. Perhaps OP’s partner is just having a difficult time with the transition and it’s as simple as that. Maybe he should get something to generate white noise, which might take the edge off.

    1. Bluesboy*

      This was me too, back in March/April when we were locked down.

      You know when you’re at the cinema, and the film is AMAZING, and you are completely lost in it, and…then someone coughs, and you’re back in the real world? At work, interruptions feel like ‘work’ interruptions. Even when it was a car horn, or a dog barking, it didn’t take me out of the office. I mean, I was IN the office!

      But at home I was trying to get myself in a ‘work’ frame of mind, which is tough sitting at a small table in the bedroom. And interruptions would take me out of that frame of mind, it was really tough to stay focused.

      All of this to say that I get why he is struggling. Literally NONE of which changes the fact that he needs to do something about it, something which is not being grumpy at you. Noise cancelling headphones? Drink less coffee? Surround himself with photos of his colleagues? I would go with the headphones, but it’s important that he understand that you are neither the culprit nor the punch bag.

      Good luck to both of you.

  40. Kaycee*

    I’m wondering if he has misophonia. Not all noises trigger people who have it, but when triggered it elicits an intense, definitely irrational fight or flight response in the brain. At my last job one of my coworker’s literal constant throat clearing sent me into numerous internal rages (I cried everyday in the bathroom- I could still hear her through my noise canceling headphones because she cleared her throat that loudly, and also constantly).

    I ranted every single day to my friends and family and my therapist until I got a new job and thought I was seriously going to lose it. Maybe its the type of sounds (repetitive, he’s trapped and can’t get away from them) that are triggering. For me, its being trapped that triggers me- being stuck in the same vicinity as someone who is smacking gum or nonstop tapping, humming, sniffling, etc. People always didn’t take me seriously and downplay it but every time she cleared her throat it made me want to scream and scream. I wish I could make people understand – I hated that I couldn’t ignore it or that it effected me that way.

    Honestly, sound machine to block out background noise and noise canceling headphones on top of that are his best bet.

    1. norah*

      Yes! Being able to “escape” versus being “trapped” makes such a difference in our perception of sound, even when the sound itself is the same.

  41. LGC*

    But my question is, how valid are his issues?

    They’re valid, but that’s not the question at stake here.

    I think there’s two problems: 1) your partner keeps being interrupted and is extremely upset by it (which is the totally valid part and 2) he dumps that on you repeatedly (which…is the way less valid part). Even if he’s genuinely angry, that doesn’t mean that he gets to regularly (it sounds like) rant to you about how your next door neighbor is Satan for talking on the phone outside.

    So, not the question you’re asking, but…like, you get to say that it’s difficult for you to hear him constantly blow up at you about the injustice of having to work at home (probably not mid-rant, though). Even if he really is mad about it. It’s now at the point where you should probably ask him to find solutions and offer to help – sometimes people just need to rant, but there’s a limit.

    Sorry for going all Captain Awkward/Dear Prudence/Dear Abby/Ask Ann on you, but it’s like…I feel like the more immediate problem is that he keeps going off on you about this again and again.

    1. Ominous Adversary*

      Well…. it’s totally valid if he really is being interrupted and his work thrown into disarray by these issues.

      All OP knows is that she comes home, and is treated to an after-the-fact rant about all the things that happened during the day and how they are supposedly the sole cause of all his work issues. So maybe they are? But maybe they’re less of a big deal than he’s making them out to have been, and it’s a convenient excuse for him to blame his own struggles on while unloading on the OP.

      I note that this is a dude who works in tech who apparently hasn’t thought to pick up noise-cancelling headphones.

      1. LGC*

        …I’ll be honest, I’m kind of treating LW’s partner like a toddler throwing a tantrum here. (Which he is, at the very least.)

        I don’t think it’s relevant to ask whether he’s right to feel angry. He can feel whatever way he wants, including that the background noise is a big deal. The problem is that…apparently he’s not doing anything about it other than berating LW. Like, there are times where I’ve been very angry (inside) about somebody singing as they work (very few of my employees are good singers, and I’m not willing to listen to any of them sing along to their music for eight hours a day). The reasonable solution for me is to get headphones and turn them up when people start getting moderately loud (and then very judiciously telling them to be quiet if they’re extremely loud). It’s not for me to berate my friends about my jerk employees.

  42. Dan*

    My apartment is usually insanely quiet. Except… last week, somebody was making a racket in the storage unit that my apartment shares a wall with, while an ambulance was driving by, and the commercial landscapers were out my front window (I’m on the ground floor) with their heavy duty equipment.

    I was seriously going to lose it.

  43. Essess*

    Another issue I would raise with him is to ask him why he is ranting about these things to you when you get home? You have no control over the noise a neighbor makes, or even if the dog barks while you aren’t there. He should not be dumping on you about his work issues when you get home. He should look at getting a white noise machine for outside noise, or else get high quality headphones with a filtering microphone. Every conference call I’ve been on since the lockdown has had an occasional dog bark in the background, including the call I had with my doctor so no one is going to consider that uprofessional.

  44. Laura H.*

    My dad has recently become more… noise sensitive (we think due to a different condition that he’s got) and he has these huge over ear protectors that he’d use when he would target shoot way back when.

    He uses them mostly during our table top nights. They work way too well in that we have to tap him on the shoulder to get his attention. Maybe something to that degree would work?

  45. KJB*

    I jumped on this one to read because we’re having the same issues here. We did discover that my spouse has higher blood pressure now, in part because he’s been drinking more coffee now that he’s home right next to the coffee maker! So there might be a physical reason he’s jumpier than usual too. Noise cancelling earbuds helped as well.

  46. The Cardinal*

    The guy may very well be dealing with an undiagnosed case of misophonia. It’s taken me years to figure out that this is at the root cause of internal reactions to a whole host of typical sounds in my environment that truly want to make strangle the offenders or blow up their sound systems. Obviously I’ve never acted on these feelings or berated anyone because my rational mind recognizes that this is mostly a “me” problem. Nevertheless, the internal feelings of anger and frustration that most would find disproportionate to the sounds being made are very real. When I read about individuals who committed violent acts against individuals because of some type of loud noise/music/etc., I often wonder if misophonia just caused them to snap. It’s not an excuse but the condition is real.

  47. allthenoises*

    A few people mentioned ADHD but there are also auditory perception things that can tend to go hand in hand with ADHD or just completely separately. I have a hard time filtering out background noise so I get distracted really easily and it can be hard for me to hear what people are saying to me, even if all I’ve caught is the hum of an HVAC. There have been a lot of conversations between my partner and I that go “That noise is burrowing into my skull.” and he will always always respond “What noise? I don’t hear anything”.

  48. Heat's Kitchen*

    If it’s his boss demanding complete quiet, I would have him ask for noise canceling headphones. I have the Jabra 75 Evolve paid for by work and they are amazing. Can’t hear my kid, dog, or the basement construction when I use them.

  49. Ali*

    I have a lot of sympathy with your partner’s difficulty with noise, though I do think his reaction to it and taking it out on you is inappropriate. I also doubt his employer cares. Since the pandemic began and I am mostly working from home (and not able to go out for other reasons either) I have developed a massively heightened noise sensitivity. Neighbors playing music, playing with their dog, talking outside, and even trucks going down the street two blocks away completely send my ears around my shoulders. He needs to find a better way to deal with it, but he is not alone. My main hack for sleeping at night has been a very loud white-noise video on Youtube (10 hours of crickets from Georgia!) but I am also very much in the middle of struggling with this.

  50. Jaybeetee*

    It could be something diagnosable, it could be garden-variety stress or anxiety. I imagine in the last 6 months or so, a lot of people gone from “fine” to “less fine”, and things that didn’t used to be issues might become issues.

    Understanding your question was whether bosses/colleagues/clients might judge him negatively for the noise. The stuff as described… generally no. If they’re even hearing it themselves, they understand that that’s life, noise exists. (I do think people get more judgey when they perceive the noise as *controllable*, which can unfortunately include things like a crying baby.)

    Your SO might benefit from asking his boss directly about this – does Boss even hear these sounds, and if so, does it make SO look bad? The answer may be reassuring.

    Bearing in mind you didn’t write in for relationship advice, if he’s gone off about this repeatedly, you wouldn’t be out of line to start steering him towards thinking of solutions, as dogs aren’t going to stop barking, neighbours aren’t going to stop existing, and cars aren’t going to stop talking. There will be noise. If that’s a problem, he needs to figure out what to do about that.

  51. Ellie May*

    Adding to Alison’s comments, I question whether this pressure his self-induced or coming from his employer. My employer changed its attitude toward work-from-home issues HUGELY after we were all locked down. Kids? Dogs? Cats walking across the deck? Slamming doors? Etc. Not a problem. Zero pressure from my employer, including optional cameras since we have more to worry about than if our hair looks professional.
    Possibly, your partner is not feeling professional when not in-person, in front of his internal clients – hmmm, he needs to think about that. Blaming very minor disturbances that everyone is confronting may not be the answer. This sounds frustrating for both of you.

  52. Rikki Tikki Tarantula*

    I work from home and have for several years now. What I find irritating is the occasional noise in an otherwise quiet house. I don’t mind a lawnmower or a dog barking, but I’m bothered by noises that my Anxiety Brain tells me I have to pay attention to (kid talking, husband on the phone). So I wear noise-reducing headphones and listen to a lot of dreamy music that supposedly helps boost your brain power. For me, it blocks out kid’s exasperation over home school and my husband chuckling over “This Cat is Chonky” pictures on Facebook.

  53. QuinleyThorne*

    Since OP mentioned busy offices: One thing I didn’t quite realize until I had to work from home for 2 weeks is just how used to office noise I’d become. I often work the front desk, and even with phones ringing, the copy machines running, and coworker/customer lobby chatter, they were still all noises I’d grown used to. I even began to find some noises really soothing, like the repeated sound of the machine making copies. After awhile they all just kinda sublimated into a low hum in my head that became easy to ignore. But during the two weeks I worked from home in my apartment, it seemed like every and any noise completely derailed my train of thought and drove me crazy: dogs barking, birds chirping, kids playing, car alarms, neighbors taking calls outside my window, lawns getting mowed, and the trains that go by on the railroad behind the building all made me absolutely NUTS, despite them never bothering me before.
    I think a lot of it came from having to be in “work mode” at home, where you have a lot less control over background noise. At work there’s a kind of expectation of civility that allows me to feel more comfortable letting people know when they’re too loud, and going to someone above them if it continues to be an issue. Most of the things making noise near my home are 1) not sentient or 2) under no obligation to comply with my requests for quiet.

  54. TootsNYC*

    I find noises at home to be much more mentally and emotionally distracting than the same noises were at work.

    That’s because the noises at work had nothing to do with me. They were none of my business.

    At home, everything feels as though it’s “my business.” (In some neighborhoods, even the neighbor honking outside might feel that way.)
    It’s less that it’s a noise, and more that it’s a stimulus right in the place where I am accustomed to responding to all stimuli.

    It’s an interruption, not a noise.

    My dog barks? That’s mine to worry about (is there a danger? is he misbehaving? do I need to shush him in order to keep him a well-disciplined dog?).

    Honking outside? That’s unusual in most neighborhoods, and I might instinctively think I should react (is someone in danger? is there a traffic jam that I should be aware of in case it indicates a traffic pattern?).

    Someone talking at the cube next door is clearly not mine to worry about.

    My husband is similar. If I mutter to myself in the bedroom “office” while I’m working, he thinks he has to come say “what?” He’s hyper like this even when work is not involved. If I rattle something in the bedroom, he needs to know what it is. If I go to get lunch from the fridge, he thinks he needs to leap up and help instead of just letting it be my problem.

    There’s something about “home” that raises that “I must be involved” reaction. And THAT is incredibly distracting.

    Lots of the examples are outside the home, but the mere fact that HE is at home may be enough to put him in the “all noises are something to react to” framework.
    And if that is the case, then identifying it is the first step to the cognitive work of convincing himself that noise outside the home is “background” and not “foreground.”

  55. *daha**

    Some have suggested noise-cancelling headphones. I don’t think anyone yet has mentioned a noise-cancelling microphone. They exist. The purpose, obviously, is to keep external sounds other than the person’s voice from being fed out to the other participants in meetings. Beyond that, it would keep those sounds from being picked up by his mic and fed back into his own headphones for him to hear.
    FWIW, I too have sensitivity to distracting noises, and find them especially difficult in combination with other stressors. Sometimes I can hyperfocus and nothing gets through. Other times I just can’t find an “ignore” setting in my brain. And yes, I am on the spectrum and have ADHD.

  56. Trolly*

    Hi there – I work from home, and either at home or in the office, really get irritated by sudden noises – all the things you mention in your letter. This gets worse when I’m more irritable due to lack of sleep, stress, or hormonal times. I’m the kind of person who gets jumpy when people have cell phones that are constantly blowing up. I actually think it’s an advantage to work from home because it’s easier to wear noise-cancelling headphones. It can be hard in the office since people might come up behind you and startle you. At home – more control over who’s around you. Here’s the brand I recommend, they are FABULOUS. We had a police airplane during the June riots that was driving me crazy, and this blocked that out, plus lots, lots more:
    Anker Soundcore Life Q20 Hybrid Active Noise Cancelling Headphones, Wireless Over Ear Bluetooth Headphones
    About $60. Saved my sanity during the riots. They will cancel noise alone, but pairing them with music you like is even better (I like classical).

    Also, a bit off-topic, but I wish we could enforce city noise ordnances – get rid of illegal motorcycles, loud engines, people who thump bass. They are EVILDOERS.

  57. Lucy P*

    We’re working with a skeleton crew at our office now. Gone are the days of office white noise. Then, lots of people talked in the background, the copiers and printers made clicking sounds, people opened and closed doors and desk drawers. It was lots of little individual sounds that would drown any one thing in particular.
    Now, since we are so few people, I have extra work. I’m taking on responsibilities that I haven’t had in years and also having new things, things that I really have no experience in, thrust at me.
    Thus, whenever someone in our office gets loud, it is distracting because until that moment the only sounds were the hum of the air conditioner and my keyboard keys clicking. If I’m on the phone at that moment, I’m rushing to try to shut my door.
    It’s not easy. The question becomes how do we handle it.

  58. Rich*

    I’ve worked in tech for 25 years. The transition from being an employee to being a consultant is both pretty common (so everyone in tech knows people who are successful at it) and exceptionally stressful. You go, overnight, from a paycheck, benefits, and a job you can define to being personally responsible for every working hour and whether it’s one where you’ll show enough value to get paid for. It also shines a bright light on what skills you have that are complete commodities — and so completely replaceable by someone doing it for less — and where you’re competitive in the marketplace. (This is undoubtedly true in plenty of independent contractor/self-employed fields, but it happens a lot in tech, and it’s where I happen to be familiar).

    The reality of that competition and fight against commodity workers is a frightening transition, and it’s easy to become hyper-focused on how your work and performance are perceived — because the perception is what gets you paid and gets your contract extended. A barking dog may not matter to an employee, but to a stressed out just-became-a-contractor, it can be just another tally mark of reasons why he won’t get re-hired for the next gig.

    I’m not saying he’s right about that, but until he gains confidence in his work as a contractor, and his ability to _get_ work as a contractor, it’s a common reaction.

    He’s not handling those concerns in a positive way, but it sounds like this could be the source.

    It might be worth a discussion about that transition, how his work is going, and how he feels about the elevated level of responsibility he has for his professional success. Getting to the bottom of that could help.

  59. JaneLoe*

    Offer to split a pair of noise canceling headphones with him, then you’ll be able to narrow down whether the noise is really what’s egging him on. I agree with Alison’s insight on finding solutions and headphones seem like a good one!

  60. Anon4this*

    He needs to buy noise cancelling headphones with a microphone (he should save the receipts and possible write off as a business expense).

    I even put put a curtain wall to visually escape as well. I had an office before so I miss the quietness and concentration I could once get

  61. Annie(mous) Oakley*

    This makes me think of the guy on reddit who asked if he was an a** for demanding complete silence from his wife and 2 toddlers.

  62. Sloan Kittering*

    This reminds me a little bit of myself right now. There are a bunch of little kids next door and somehow the 3:30-4:30 Shrieking Hour is driving me absolutely bananas in a very irrational way. I realize it’s totally against my values (kids are under a lot of stress right now! I actually WANT more kids to play outdoors and have fun!) but here we are. I just keep reminding myself that this is really my own issue and that I’m under extra stress right now and that’s making me irritable. I don’t think there are any other solutions; your partner needs to do the work.

    But seriously tho WHY did little kids love screaming SO MUCH it’s incomprehensible.

    1. TimeTravlR*

      I’m sure it’s the isolation from our “normal” lives. Things that never bother me are definitely bugging me and things that bug me anyway are really sending me over the top. I have to keep reminding myself that we are all struggling.

    2. norah*

      oh man I can commiserate on this front, but you’re also luckily it’s only an hour… I live next to a large building that has mostly 2-3 bedroom condos, so lots and lots of young kids. They go outside to start screeching as soon as the sun comes up and they’re out there in shifts until sometimes 9 or 10pm. I sympathize HARD with their parents and get the logic behind just letting the kids loose in a contained environment all day so they can work but I really wish one of them would come out and tell them they’re only allowed to yell like that if they’re actually in danger because our evolutionary response to hearing children in “distress” only exacerbates my sensitivity to noise. It is deranged how much noise they make! Why must they scream

      1. Sloan Kittering*

        Sending love because the only thing that would be worse is if there were more of them. And yes I swear part of it must be evolutionary, because I canNOT tune them out!!

    3. TiffIf*

      There’s a day care at either end of my very short block–I hear children screaming all day. And these daycare centers have not actually closed during the pandemic so the entire 7 months I have been working form home I have heard it.

    4. Filosofickle*

      This summer, a giant trampoline was set up next door. OMG THE SHRIEKING. Every single day, usually starting around 1p. And like you I understand that it’s great for the kids. Such happiness! I don’t want to be the curmudgeonly neighbor. If you can’t scream on a set trampoline in the backyard, when can you?

      But when it’s hours every day. When it’s disrupting work calls. When it’s clearly audible all the way across the house with all the windows shut…dang, it’s just hard. And we don’t have a/c so even shutting the windows is a big sacrifice. The shriekiest one (who’s maybe 7?) isn’t doing it mindlessly either — I can hear him exploring what his voice can do, playing with the sounds and pitch. It’s fun for him.

      1. norah*

        Yep, the kids next door to me aren’t unaware of the noise they make – you can hear them competing with each other to see who can do it louder and longer. Sometimes there are 10+ of them out there all vying for dominance with the sheer power of their voices. I *know* I didn’t do this when I was young!

        1. Sloan Kittering*

          I confess occasionally it crosses my mind that a parent might. in theory, tell them to stop. However, I understand that we are all under a lot of stress right now, them more than me.

          These comments have made me feel better; at least it’s not dawn, and there’s only like three or four of them, not a whole school.

      2. ellex42*

        My one neighbor also has a trampoline and 4 kids aged 10 to 5. And it’s not just them screaming, all the kids in the neighborhood scream – not shriek, not yell – *scream*.

        I was at a park a couple of weeks ago and there were kids on the playground, and while there was plenty of yelling, there was no screaming. I dunno.

        But nearly every office I’ve ever worked in has had some kind of road construction/building construction going on nearby nearly the entire time I was there (the highway reconstruction while working on the edge of a downtown area was really awful – think incessant pounding all day long). And I live in a fairly dense neighborhood where there are lots of cars going by, lots of kids, and yes, some kind of building construction on the next hill over, so even WFH, which I love, is not exactly quiet. I’m actually looking forward to winter, when it should at least be a little quieter.

  63. Sam Foster*

    I haven’t seen anyone else add this but the exhibited behavior can be a “gateway” in to abusive behaviors. If he is responding poorly to innocuous things and massively over-reacting it can be a warning sign.

  64. TimeTravlR*

    I work better with quiet. I work from home almost 100% now and when i do go back regularly it will only be once a week. Partner likes music playing, etc. We are fortunate to have enough space to set up offices on separate floors.
    In the case of OP, though, I wonder if he is overreacting a bit. Everyone knows the dog will bark at the most inopportune moment. I was in the middle of a presentation on Thursday when my HVAC guy showed up for the semi annual system check up. Fortunately, we don’t use video, so I could call in (knowing this might happen) and I just kept talking while I opened the door.

  65. female peter gibbons*

    Noise cancelling headphones
    White Noise Machine
    Even a fan or a heater depending on the inside temperature.

    This is how I deal with this issue

  66. Junior Assistant Peon*

    We had an intercom at a former workplace, and my thoughts would take off like a flock of pigeons every time our receptionist paged somebody.

  67. BonzaSonza*

    I suspect that your husband may be struggling with his attention constantly being pulled away from his work when he’s trying to concentrate, and suspect that increasing the background noise or getting noise-cancelling headphones could help minimise that.

    When I transitioned to working from home full-time I was surprised by how quiet it was in the house. Incidental noises seemed so LOUD and prominent because the the relative silence really brought my attention to them, and it was messing with my ability to concentrate.

    I work in a highly technical role with tight deadlines, large amounts of money at stake and lots of pressure. At the time I began working from home I was the only person in our organisation who was not based full-time in our two major offices. I was told in no uncertain terms that I was an experiment, and I had to make this ‘work from home’ thing work; not just for me, but for anyone else who might want to work from home in the future. So, no pressure.

    I learned to turn the TV on in the living room, listen to music, or play audiobooks in the background so there’s always some background level of noise. When I really want to concentrate on work I’ll get my noise cancelling headphones and queue up a bunch of declutter videos on youtube from a few channels whose voices I find calm and soothing. It sounds bizarre, but the topic is just boring enough to allow me to ignore it, while having a constant murmur of noise in the background to hide the incidental noises that might interrupt my concentration.

    As a side note – Your husband’s taking his frustration out on you is not OK, and while it may be true that your work is not as intense as his, just be careful that he doesn’t start to devalue your own contributions. I earn more than twice what my husband does, and (I think) have more pressure, but his work just as important *to him* as mine is to me, and isn’t any less valid because of our difference in pay packet. I make sure to vacate the office to give him privacy in his meetings and share childcare responsibilities equally.

  68. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

    My husband was a bit like this for a while when working at home first started. It’s normally really quiet in our house so any noise I made (typing, moving papers, etc) seemed really loud. Also his work laptop microphone was picking up and amplifying everything in a weird way. He started using a headset for most of his meetings and that seemed to help.

  69. Dancing Otter*

    It isn’t clear to me whether the “venting” to OP includes blaming OP, or directing anger for noises that were clearly not her fault.
    If he’s just looking for sympathy – this bad thing happened today – I’d say “Poor darling” and offer some of the excellent suggestions above.
    If he tried to blame me, he’d get even more noise when I slammed the door behind me, either closing myself in another room or going back out. (After telling him why, of course.)
    You don’t have to tolerate being verbally abused just because everything doesn’t go his way.

  70. Uniqua*

    I see myself nodding in agreement to many of the above comments – that something else could be at play here.. – stress, hypersensitivity to sounds, ADHD / sensory issues etc.. or bad headphones… or even extra sensitive headphones..

    If HE is being bothered by sound, then a noise cancelling headset would work great.

    If HIS TEAM is, then he might need a headset that is not super-sensitively picking up all noises.

    In both cases, a noise-proof room would.

    I had to move my at-home-workspace closer to kitchen recently.. every single noise around me is suddenly being noticed by the Team. My family can’t eat when I have a meeting. A single spoon sound touching a bowl was getting amplified…I make sure to keep my phone muted.. One particular day was ‘fun’ when the dishwasher was running and my super sensitive headphones were sending strange noise to others every time I unmuted to speak. lol.. Next time, I will turn it off during mtgs.. but it took me a while to figure this out,

  71. Darian*

    Is it possible that normally his home office is really quiet for the most part, making any noise stand out? Offices not only have background noise from activities but also sound masking so there is a constant, low level of noise so that speech does not stand out. It may be worth trying some background music, white noise, or a long/looping recording of a fan or similar sound.

  72. EJ*

    I worked from home for a bit, and because an office has constant background noise, little noises like this were less noticeable. Working from home, it was mostly silent, so when any noise occurred and I was focussed, it was quite startling. As a side note, we’ve recently moved back to the office and it so SO MUCH louder than I remembered!

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