Dear Prudence: My wife has a habit that I find irritating. Instead of blowing her nose, she sniffs to keep the snot in, making a loud snorting sound.

This isn’t usually a problem, but now that the pollen has returned, this sniffing occurs every 30 seconds throughout the day.

I feel this is rude habit and it must be irritating to others at the cubicles in her office. When I mention this to her, she gets defensive and thinks that I’m rude to bring it up.

Is this sniffing habit truly annoying to others, or is it just me? We need another perspective so that we don’t have to resort to couples counseling.


Prudence says: Now that chalkboards are being replaced by whiteboards a whole generation will be spared even knowing what it means to hear fingernails scraping one.

It turns out there are certain sounds that drive people bonkers, and the science of how we perceive and experience sound is called psychoacoustics — or the study of acoustics that make people psycho. I know from my inbox, and life, that certain repetitive human noises — loud chewing, throat clearing, and yes, sniffing — can make some people feel as if the offending noise is magnifying and echoing through their skulls, threatening to make their brains explode.

I assure you your wife’s fellow cubicle-dwellers are noticing. I do sympathize with your wife’s condition; without today’s over-the-counter allergy pills, I would spend about four months a year with a drip pan under my nose.

But since there are pharmaceutical treatments for allergies, your wife has no excuse.

If you can’t convince her to stop snorting and end up in couples therapy because of it, after a few minutes the counselor is sure to push that box of tissue toward your wife and say, “For my own sanity, please take one and blow.”


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