Why do rumbling trucks make me feel bad?

This happens at least once a day when I’m at work. A large truck will stop at the stoplight close to my office building and idle its engine, which causes my ears to hurt (sort of like when you’re on an airplane) and makes me feel vaguely nauseous if it goes on for too long.

When I’ve commented on this to my three co-workers who all sit in my cubicle area, they think I’m nuts and claim that they can’t even hear anything (this includes someone who sits closer to the window than I do and should be able to hear it better.) So what exactly is going on? I don’t have a similar problem with the trucks that stop at the light by my apartment. Maybe the difference is in the windows? I feel like the windows in my office vibrate differently, which I know sounds goofy but I can’t define it any better than that.

What you describe is entirely reasonable. The military have been trying to exploit low frequency noise as a non-lethal weapon for a while now, and what you report is what has been described int the literature for exposure to moderate levels (no where near the levels for weaponized versions).

As to why you experience it but not your colleagues and why you experience it at work but not at home, well acoustics are complex. First, you may just be more susceptible, different people differ in this. Secondly, the layout of your office may have something to do with it. It has been reported that much lower sound powers can be used indoors if the geometry is correct to produce the same results as much higher powers outdoors. It may be that your desk is at a natural anti-node for the sound. There are ways of messing with this, and moving furniture may help, but I can’t be sure. See if someone else in your desk experiences the same thing.