Tell someone that traffic noise near your home bothers you and they say “tune it out,” but tell someone the nearby sewer system stinks, and you’ll get sympathy.

Often, when I’ve ever complained of offensive noise, the tone of the listener’s response of “tune it out” sounded as though they thought I was being overly sensitive.

Sometimes I’ve gotten a rather irate, “Oh just tune it out!”

I once lived at an apartment complex where every so often overnight, the water pump to the pool would emit loud squeaks, awakening me.

I asked other residents why they weren’t complaining to management as I had.

They told me they “learned to tune it out,” and had that tone in their voice indicating that I, too, should learn to live with it and rise above the noise.

I’m 100 percent sure these same people would have relentlessly complained to management about a sewage odor.

And suppose there was a sewer odor. And had I told them that I’ve “learned to tune it out,” they would have thought I was crazy – and rude for suggesting they do so as well.

Many of us can’t ignore offensive sounds any more than you can ignore the stench of sewage, garbage, urine, feces, armpit odor, rotten fish, disposal food waste, rancid cheese and skunk.

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What’s up, people?

If someone tells you about some noise they can’t stand, don’t be a schmuck and tell them to tune it out. This advice hardly makes you come across as intelligent.

People have thought something was amiss with me when I’ve complained of noise.

But I got totally different reactions when I complained of foul odors.

I had no problem getting a police officer to come to my place to investigate my complaint of a very malodorous odor coming from my neighbor’s unit – even though I gave the officer NO reason to suspect a dead body rotting inside.

People from two units on the other side of the stinking neighbor had also made complaints, but to their landlord.

The landlord had then immediately proceeded to investigate the problem.

This same landlord, who was also the HOA president, thought something was wrong with my faculties when he found out that I had complained to a man across the street about his pickup truck’s diesel engine – that he’d let needlessly idle (which made a loud rumbling noise) for extended periods between 7 am and 7:30 am, awakening me and preventing falling back asleep. This went on nearly every morning.

Why are people regarded as weird, strange or “they have a problem” when they complain about noise, yet get sympathy when they rant about a bad smell?

Shutterstock/Anatoliy Karlyuk

Though a stench can mean a problem, such as release of dangerous chemicals into the air, or an entrapped dead body of an animal, there are many cases in which there is not a precarious situation causing the foul odor.

I once told my brother about an extremely annoying humming that was suddenly coming from my wall. “Oh just ignore it,” he said.

Had I told him that I was getting wafts of feces odor blowing through an open window, from breezes blowing upon piles of the neighbor’s dog poop near my window, I guarantee it, he would not have told me to ignore this.

He would have told me to dump the poop at the neighbor’s door.

Ears Can Be Plugged; Noses Can’t

People who complain of noise can wear ear plugs or ear muffs, but here’s a novel thought: After a while they get uncomfortable!

And maybe we’d like to hear the breeze outside or listen to music or the TV without hearing an endless barrage of motorcycles with illegally-modified mufflers roaring down the nearby road.

Maybe we’d like to listen to our TVs or music without hearing the recurring shrill screams and shrieks of children outdoors.

Take note of the reaction you get when you complain about noise that people make (kids AND adults).

Then take note of the reaction when you tell people that you can’t leave the windows of your home open at night because that’s when skunks do a lot of spraying.


I had no problem getting my HOA’s plumber out to my yard to clean up the sewer runouts after complaining of a sewage odor seeping into my closet.

But I have yet to get the HOA and plumber to take seriously my complaint about the common furnace making annoying noises that my walls pick up. I’m sure that something with the furnace can be altered to quiet it down.

  • Why is it that intolerance of sounds is actually considered a mental disorder, but intolerance of odors isn’t?
  • Why do the symptoms of “hypersensitivity disorder” focus far more on sensitivity to sounds than to smells?

Intolerance of noise is associated with ADHD. Intolerance of bad smells isn’t.

Why are we told, “I can’t believe that bothers you!” upon reporting an intrusive noise, but we then get, “Oh you poor thing!” when we report a terrible odor?

How many of the critics of those who complain of loud noise (such as needlessly slamming metal weights at the gym) would be able to tune out the odor of a sweaty man at that gym who hasn’t bathed or used deodorant for three weeks?

Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.  



Top image: Shutterstock/ARENA Creative