As I was riding on the bus recently, another passenger a few rows behind me was listening to music. He or she had headphones on but the music was loud enough to leak out of the headphones. When there is leakage, it does not matter whether the music is actually Mozart or Britney Spears: it always sounds like someone rhythmically shaking the utensils drawer in the kitchen while a buddy remodels the bathroom with a jackhammer. And then whatever singing there may be sounds like someone screaming in a pillow.
While listening to the other passenger’s utensil music, it occurred to me that I was experiencing the auditory equivalent of having to smell someone’s stink. That is, someone oozing jackhammer music all over the place is not unlike someone smelling like rotten garbage.
It is remarkable that the same people who would not dream of going out of the house smelling like garbage would think nothing of stinking up the air with sound. Well, I guess the answer here is that body odor is commonly associated with bad hygiene. This is where social pressure comes in. It does not really matter what the real story is: if someone smells bad, then the automatic presumption is that that person has bad hygiene. If we were to ask, then maybe the story would be that a baby just pooped on that poor individual and that they are rushing home to change their clothes because they do know that everybody in the world will assume they can’t be bothered to wipe their own asses, etc. When it comes to auditory stink, no presumption of bad hygiene exists. So there is no potential for embarrassment here.
Maybe through social engineering there would be a way to make “auditory stink” socially unacceptable. I don’t know where I would start though…