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I suffer from Hypersensitive hearing to low decibel sounds. I can clearly hear a phone ring inside whilst outside etc. I don't care about the noise level itself and can easily block out normal to high decibel sounds like normal talk (and full on storms etc), but what actually agitates me and disallows me to concentrate on my task at hand is whispering.

I understand that sometimes things need to be briefly whispered, but if a conversation is longer than a couple of sentences I easily get frustrated and distracted. My work allows me to wear headphones which I do on a regular basis and specifically moved to a less populated part of the office as I don't expect to disrupt everyone, but a lady choose to move next to me 6 months ago and frequently has extended whispered conversations daily.

I have advised my manager about this and nothing has been said to the person. I am an upfront person and would like to just advise them of the same above and ask them if they could either move the conversations to another location should they not wish to be overheard or actually speak in a normal quiet voice instead of whispering.

Do you think it is acceptable for me to approach the person directly seen as management haven't and what I ask is not an unacceptable request?

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    You say you wear headphones, so how come you can hear the whispering? What do you listen too, and have you tried white noise? – user Aug 21 '18 at 9:40
  • can you hear what she is saying? could you lie and say you can? – WendyG Aug 21 '18 at 10:16
  • Is your headphone the noise cancelling type? – Dan Aug 21 '18 at 12:33
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I think asking them to move will inevitably seem rude. However, you could still address the whispering issue.

I suggest being up front. Explain to her that you have an hearing condition, and that you don't mind her speaking out loud. However, whispering is very disturbing to you. Then, ask her if it would be possible for her to stop whispering and use her regular tone of voice instead.

Be polite and charming (smile), go to the point, choose a good time to talk to her (when she arrives in the morning maybe?).

You may start the conversation with something like:

I've wanted to talk to you about something for a while...

If she agrees to stop whispering but then does it anyway in a conversation, just give her a friendly reminder of your hearing condition (after five minutes or when the person she was talking to leaves).

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  • Yes it could be that they're whispering because they don't want to bother you. – Dan Aug 21 '18 at 12:34
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You're unlikely to find a resolution to this that truly makes you happy (everyone around you staying quiet). People are talking in low voices to minimise disruption in the office.

While you could speak to this co-worker and mention as part of the conversation that you have a hearing condition, this same situation is going to happen again. And you can't constantly tell people to move away from you every time they want to talk to co-workers or talk on the phone.

In asking people to move away from you, you're disrupting their working day in order to cater for you - and in moving away, they also have to take their paperwork/laptops and whatever else that supports the discussion.

People who don't really understand your condition may come to resent you for stifling their discussions.

You may need to seek out alternative ways of dealing with this. This might be medical, this might be you working further apart or remotely. There are plenty of misophona support websites about that can further advise you on this.

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Let me make sure I get this correctly: If I talk to my colleague then you can hear it and it doesn't disturb you. If I whisper to my colleague (with the intent that you can't hear it and it doesn't disturb you), then you can still hear it, but it also disturbs you. In both cases exactly the opposite of what I wanted to achieve.

I would suggest that you talk to the lady in question and explain it to hear, that whispering doesn't give her privacy because of your good hearing, but that it does disturb you. Any reasonable person would understand this and change how they speak.

And that lady cannot complain about you telling you, because she believed wrongly that the whispering gave her privacy, and it didn't. If it was me, I would want to know. (Not that I have much whispering to do in the office).

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Talking to your manager probably won't yield any results. He already gave you a workplace in a less populated part of the office. Moving coworkers away from you because you are disrupted by their considerate whispering is outside the range of "normal" workplace arrangement. It could seem to other colleagues like you get your every wish fulfilled and people you don't like removed from your vicinity.

That your problem is not caused by personal tastes but by a medical condition is unfortunately invisible to your coworkers and therefor of no big consequence.

You should talk to your coworker and explain to her that her whispering is actually more disrupting than a conversation in low tones. Just asking her to stop whispering is not going to work because she thinks she is acting considerate. You need to give her an alternative and explain why the alternative is better than her current behavior.

You should also be prepared to avoid the situation. If you can, temporarily move to a quiet place and continue working there. Use noise cancelling headphones or plain old ear plugs. The headphones block sound waves even without music playing, so wearing them to cancel out noise looks normal to other people.

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