I have ADHD and as such have terrible difficulty maintaining my concentration, especially when working on homework. Because of this, I often like to work on the "quiet floor" of my university's library. This floor is basically supposed to be silent, though there is no authority to enforce this.

Recently, every time I have tried to work there, there has been a person on the quiet floor who clears their throat about once every two minutes. The noise is quite jarring, and can be heard from far away. I have tried wearing headphones, but have to listen to white noise rather than music to concentrate, and even with headphones on, their noise is audible (if only faintly). Moving to another location on the floor is not an option since there are often few desks open, and I have to take what I can get. Often they are audible from other places on the floor anyway. Similarly, I have problems concentrating in other locations on campus.

How can I tactfully inform this person that their incessant throat clearing is incredibly distracting? If it was occasional or quiet, I could tolerate it, but since it is extremely frequent and quite loud, I feel like I am losing my mind trying to ignore it.

2 Answers 2


How can I ask someone in a quiet library to stop clearing their throat?

Any nice and polite approach will help talking to this person. A quick written note is the best, because of the "quiet area" where this happens. You may also talk to any staff member, and ask them if they're aware of what occurs, and if there's a nice way to take care of it.

But, before taking any action, if you can, I'd say: please, don't do anything right now, and think about sucking it up / moving / {any life hack}. Why?

there has been a person on the quiet floor who clears their throat about once every two minutes.

Because the frequency of the clearing makes me think of a "disorder" (close to "Obsessive Compulsive Disorder") that a friend of mine has, "ahem-ing" every 5 to 10 seconds, all day long. It just can't be swept off by asking to stop or offering any medication. Be it a medical physical condition or mental condition. (FWIW: my friend has this only OCD, and nothing's worth trying to stop him.)

So, if you ask right now, the person won't be able to stop if they have a medical condition.

Further reading about Chronic Throat Clearing HERE and HERE. I've recently (2019/08/02) discovered that it can be part of Tourette syndrome => "some common tics are eye blinking, coughing, throat clearing, sniffing, and facial movements."

My advice: read about the disorder, weight your options, ask the staff, before any other action. You may find out that not asking this person to stop could be your best option.


I'd suggest asking the person in the following way:

Hi, excuse me, do you have minute? I am sitting over there and wanted to ask you something... I hear you clear your throat so often that I'm having trouble reading. I hope it's ok to ask, do you think you could avoid clearing your throat so often? It would mean a lot to me, and I'm sure to many people around us and well. I'd be very grateful.

It might sound overly polite to some, because you may be of the mind that they are the one "in the wrong", not you. But the key here is that you're asking them to make an effort and you're in no position of authority to them, just two patrons of a library, so really you're asking them for a favor. (It would be different if you were on staff, in which case a brief "Please stop making so much noise" would be enough.)

If you want to be not just tactful but generous, you can offer them some throat lozenges or ricola candy, in case it helps. I've seen these offered at concerts where too often a quiet meditative moment in the music will be abruptly interrupted by someone coughing.

Another way to deal with this: approach staff, tell them about the issue, and ask them to intervene because it's troubling your concentration. After all, if someone was playing loud music, they would intervene, right? Though it depends on their standards for noise, you might find them on your side.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.