When someone is humming around you, the noise can quickly become so annoying that you can’t think straight anymore. Of course, you don’t want to be a killjoy, but sometimes it’s just too much, and you have to ask the person to stop humming.
Some ways to politely ask someone to stop humming are: say you have a headache, you are sensitive to noise, you are trying to concentrate, or you are trying to listen to music. If all of this seems inappropriate in this situation, try changing locations.
If humming is a pet peeve of yours and you’d like to learn how to ask someone to stop politely, this guide will be your friend!
Why You Might Want Someone to Stop Humming
It’s Been a Long Day
After a long day, the last thing you want to do is listen to someone humming. It can be incredibly agitating when you are already in a bad mood.
If you were late to work, running behind schedule, got yelled at by your boss, or simply didn’t get enough sleep, humming is sure to get on your nerves.
Someone You Dislike Hums
You may have bad associations with humming. If someone you dislike hums, then you might think of them anytime someone else hums.
If something bad happens, you will associate it with other things as your body’s way to try and protect itself.
This is why you may dislike humming if someone who hums has hurt you in any way.
You Want Peace and Quiet
Sometimes you’re just in the mood for peace and quiet. We all get that way.
Especially in this day and age where we’re always looking at our screens and listening to music, some good old-fashioned silence can do wonders.
When you’re in the mood for quiet, humming can really get on your nerves.
Silence can increase focus and cognition, reduce muscle tension, regulate breathing, decrease your heart rate, and lower your blood sugar.  No wonder we crave it sometimes!
You Don’t Like How Humming Sounds
Humming is an annoying sound to a lot of people. It can be especially bothersome if the person humming can’t hold a tune.
There are actually many health benefits to humming.  But that doesn’t mean you’ll enjoy how it sounds.
You Have a Sensory Processing Disorder
A sensory processing disorder is when senses, like sound, overwhelm people.  Something that may seem like a reasonable volume to others is heightened in those with this disorder.
Sensory processing disorders are common in people with autism, brain injuries, or premature births.
While most people get accustomed to noises over time, people with a sensory processing disorder actually get more and more agitated as sounds go on, and they never become background noises.
Situations You Might Find Yourself In
On Your Commute
One of the most common places people hum is during their commutes. Whether you’re taking the train, bus, or subway, there is bound to be someone humming.
They may be humming along to the music they’re listening to, or just humming to themselves to pass the time. Many people hum when they’re bored, and commutes can be monotonous as you take the same path every day.
A lot of people don’t have the awareness to realize that they’re in public and that the sounds they make affect other people.
It’s similar to people who listen to their music with their headphones off.
At a Family Gathering
Everyone has someone in their family who hums. A prime humming time is while dinner is being served or when there is a quiet lull in the conversation.
You are already more likely to get frustrated with relatives than with anyone else in your life. So when one of them hums, it is sure to grind your gears.
Having a family member who hums can put you in a precarious situation because, depending on family dynamics, it might be considered very rude to ask them to stop.
In the Car
This is a big one. You’re sitting in the passenger seat. The driver turns on the music. You enjoy it for a second, and then…they start humming. Your moment of respite is ruined.
Or maybe you’re trying to focus on driving and your passenger keeps humming. It makes it hard to pay attention to the road.
Car rides can be incredibly long, so you can be stuck next to someone who hums for hours. If you don’t know what to do in this situation, you might be in trouble.
Some people hum to help themselves to focus. This can be great for them, but terribly distracting for you. If you’re taking a test and the person next to you is humming, it may make it hard to focus on your work.
If the person humming is a classmate you know well, it will be easy to ask them to stop. But if it’s someone you only have one class with or someone you don’t talk to often, it might feel more uncomfortable to confront them.
You also don’t want the whole class to hear you ask them to stop because that can embarrass them.
In the Library
Although the library is meant to be a quiet space, some people consider humming to be quiet. They may have a habit of humming to themselves while they read or while they look for books.
A lot of people don’t even realize when they’re humming because it’s become second nature to them.
If humming gets on your nerves, it can be very hard to read or study while someone is humming next to you.
Polite Ways to Ask Someone to Stop Humming
“I’m sorry, but would you mind not humming? I have a headache.”
Whether you actually have a headache or not, this is a great way to ask someone to stop humming. It gives a concrete reason why you can’t listen to them hum instead of just seeming annoyed.
Someone is more likely to stop humming if they think it is making their headache worse because no one wants to contribute to someone else’s headache.
“I’m very sensitive to noise, can you please stop humming?”
Perhaps you have a sensory processing disorder, or perhaps you’re just feeling particularly sensitive to noise that day. If you work somewhere loud, in a big city, or loud household, your tolerance for extra noise is likely to be low.
The key to this phrase is that it puts the onus on you, not the person humming. It doesn’t make it so that they’re doing something wrong, just that you have specific needs for a more quiet space.
“I’m trying to focus and I get distracted easily. Would it be okay if you stopped humming?”
This phrase is particularly useful at school or in a library. If you’re taking a test, it will hold the extra weight.
No one intends to distract you. If they realize that they are being a distraction, they will likely stop humming.
“I’d really like to hear the music, do you think you can stop humming for a bit?”
If you’re in the car and can’t stand listening to humming, this is a good phrase to use.
If someone is humming and there is no music on, a good trick is to turn on the music and then use this phrase.
This phrase is also gentle because it says “for a bit.” This makes it seem like it’s just a temporary accommodation when really the person who was humming will forget they were humming and won’t return to it.
Things to Do When You Can’t Ask Someone to Stop Humming or If They Say No
Put On Headphones
Potentially the most common strategy when you’re stuck next to someone who won’t stop humming is to put on headphones. If you feel uncomfortable asking them to stop, if it’s not appropriate to ask, or if they say no, this is a way to block out the humming.
You’ll likely only need a very low volume to cover up the humming. Be careful though, because if you said you had a headache, this will make you look bad.
If you’re commuting or in a library, changing seats is a good option to get away from someone who won’t stop humming. It is also sometimes easier than asking someone to stop.
Changing seats avoids confrontation and lets you just quietly escape the situation. It also lets the other person hum, which they are likely doing for a reason.
If you get confronted with changing seats, just say that you like to change your scenery every so often and it helps you learn better.
Turn the Music On or Off
If you’re in the car with someone who’s humming along to music, one way to get them to stop is to simply turn off the music. Then they will have nothing to hum along to.
Conversely, if they’re humming in silence, turn on the music. There’s a chance that they might start singing to the music, but chances are they were just humming to fill in the space. Even if they hum along to the music, you won’t be able to hear them as well.
Sophie Hammond is a journalist, psychologist, and freelance speechwriter for people in politics and business. She lives on the edge of the Rocky Mountains with her dog and a lifetime supply of books. When she’s not writing, she can be found wandering through nature or journaling at a coffee shop.