The Sound of Silence

I love quiet.

My idea of background noise is birds and crickets and children laughing.  I like to read in silence, write in silence, daydream in silence.  I like to talk to my friends with nary a sound in the background.

If I feel like listening to music, I turn on the radio, but usually I don’t.  Not even in the car.

My husband always wants the radio or tv on, no matter what he is doing.  He likes a background of words, spoken or sung, even though he says he tunes it out and doesn’t hear the words.

I don’t know how he does it.  The words invade my own thoughts.  I find myself distracted by lyrics even when I don’t like them, especially when I don’t like them.

(One day he had the radio on while we were working on a project, and after about half an hour I asked, “Is every song this DJ plays about drugs?”  He had not noticed, but sure enough, several songs later, he concurred that, yes, it seemed to be a show entirely devoted to singing about drug usage.  He changed the station for me.)

In the car, I’ll be looking out the window, enjoying a feeling of quiet companionship, and he’ll turn on talk radio to fill the silence.

For me, talk radio is as pleasant as being seated next to a screaming baby on an airplane.  He remembers this after a moment and switches to a music station.

Most of the time, I’m able to tolerate background noise, which is what it is to me, noise.  I know to him, it is not noise.  It is soothing in a way I don’t experience, but I understand that it is to others.

If I find his selection abrasive, I’ll request that he change the radio station.  Sometimes I do sigh irritably and scowl as yet another youtube video invades my auditory space.  Sometimes I just leave the room and find a quiet spot.   Mostly, I try to ignore it.

The only time I find myself feeling indignant is if he walks into the room where I am reading and turns on the radio or tv.  I would not walk into a room where other people were listening to the radio and turn it off.  That would be startlingly rude, wouldn’t it?  But somehow, doing the opposite is accepted as normal.


I don’t believe his love of background sound gives him greater rights.  I don’t think my love of silence is more virtuous.  They are just different.

My husband and I have accepted that my preference for quiet is no more likely to change than his preference for life with a soundrack.  He’s willing to change stations or lower the volume.  Lately, he often asks if I have a preference in spotify stations; he gets the sound he craves, but I can make sure it is something that won’t grate on my nerves.

It’s a good compromise.  When he is away, I even find myself occasionally thinking that the house is too quiet without him.

How do you feel about tv or radio in the background?  Music or talk radio?


9 thoughts on “The Sound of Silence

  1. I can tune things out, but there are times when I like quiet. I need quiet to think and I write better when it is quiet. I often listen to talk shows or news shows when I drive or paint, but usually I find I have not actually been hearing much of it.

  2. Ginger Kay,
    I’m a quiet person – unless I’m working out and then I want (or is it need?) music. Music takes my mind off the dreaded sit-ups : /
    When I’m working, I need it quiet so that I can think straight!

  3. Talk radio = screaming baby? Hmm – almost and it can depend. I have talk podcasts on (do at the moment – the New Elizabethians) if I’m doing fairly mundane and boring stuff (entering receipts or reconciling calendars etc.) but if I’m reading, yep quiet. Thankfully Wookie has earplugs for when he listens to engineering you tubes 🙂

    • I’m not familiar with podcasts, so I can’t say that I’d lump them in with talk radio. To me, talk radio is either political talk, call-in advice shows, or sports, none of which I want to hear.

  4. I love music in the background, at all times. My new stepmom never ever has music on as background noise; she explained to me she’s an audio learner and so her brain tunes to sound and thus the sound of the music interrupts her other thoughts. I am a visual learner, so this does not impact me (and was the first time I’d heard it related to learning styles). I have to remember to turn the music lower when she visits, and that she’s not likely to want to chat when she works on something, whereas I’m the opposite. It’s quite interesting to me, this concept of people who prefer silence…..

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