Kate and I have been happily married for over 15 years and have worked together on AoM for 13 of those years. But despite being around one another 24/7, we never get bored of each other nor do we get on each other’s nerves.
There has been one significant exception, one point of contention, however, over this decade and a half of otherwise wedded bliss:
The volume of my sneezes.
My thunderous sneezes drive Kate bonkers. She says they hurt her ears, and she tries to anticipate them so she can block the sound with her hands.
I know I sneeze loudly. My sneeze volume even hurts my ears. So I can’t imagine what it sounds like for someone else. I’ve also been embarrassed by my loud sneezes when they happen in public. After I unleash hell from my mouth and nose, heads swivel and people look at me like I’ve ripped a big fart.
To make matters worse, my sneezes come in pairs, and the second is often just as loud or sometimes louder than the first.
“Can’t you try to tamp them down?!” Kate will ask in exasperation after one of my ear-splitting sneezing fits.
“Sorry, no can do,” I reply. “It’s not possible to change your sneezes; this is just the way they are. And even if I could try to stifle them, doing so would probably give me an aneurysm, or something. You’ll just have to live with it — here, wear these noise-canceling headphones.”
Recently, however, I saw some members of The Strenuous Life discussing what they termed the “Dad Sneeze” in the forums (turns out I’m not alone in having this issue). And they attested that, in fact, the Dad Sneeze could be tamed.
Intrigued, I decided to investigate the question for myself. Here is my (unexpectedly full) report.
Why Men Tend to Sneeze Loudly
Surprisingly, sneeze volume is a well-researched phenomenon.
The loudness of a sneeze is determined in large part by the anatomy of the sneezer. Erich Voigt, an ear, nose, and throat doctor, explained in an interview that someone’s lung capacity, along with the size of their muscles, heavily influence the loudness of their sneezes.
Bigger muscles (particularly in the diaphragm) mean you’ll have a stronger muscle contraction, which will release the air when you sneeze with more force. A larger lung capacity means you’ll release more air when you sneeze.
More force + more air = louder sneeze.
So, I’m going to go ahead and flatter myself and say that my loud sneezes are due to being a big, beefy athlete. Alright!
Because men tend to have larger muscles and more lung capacity than women, men generally sneeze more loudly.
Where you let the sneeze come out can also influence sneeze volume. According to Dr. Richard Harvey, another ENT, “If you sneeze through your mouth, it will be louder.”
Dr. Alan Hirch, a neurologist at the Smell and Taste Research Foundation, argues that our sneeze style and volume also have a personality component. Just as some people have a booming laugh, some people have a really loud sneeze.
In addition to these factors, culture may play a role in sneeze loudness as well. At least, that’s what sociologist Barbara Evers argues. In countries high on individualism, like the United States, men tend to let their sneezes rip. In countries