Today, my thoughtful co-worker Jerry brought to work the "noise killers" he was issued in the Navy, during his service in the seventies. I've seen similar "noise-cancelling" headphones at the big Box store, and thought of buying a (expensive) pair, so I was delighted to try Jerry's set out for free.
They work like a charm. It's really a bear to concentrate in a cubical when you're writing (even with an iPod on), what with all the wild inter-cube and office ruckus. With these heavy-duty plastic earmuffs on, you can barely hear a thing.
I have super-hearing -- perhaps a quasi-"proto-Aspie" trait of mine -- and I often find environmental noise quite irritating. Lately, I've even taken to wearing the foam earplugs I used to wear only while sleeping, to read in my apartment. Without the earplugs I can hear a TV set yammering three or four apartments away, or the constantly screaming kids in the pool. I really hate hearing moffled yet somehow still loud cheering and clapping during TV sports broadcasts.
I'd love to try these noise-killers out while sleeping. I already wear a mouth guard (thanks to grinding my teeth), foam earplugs, a CPAP mask, and an eyeshade. Perhaps I could combine most of this gear into a mask/helmet, and experience total sensory deprivation. How I miss the youthful days of simply lying down, closing my eyes, and going (and staying) asleep.
Memory contest experts rig up blacked-out glasses and earmuffs to enhance their powers of concentration. It really is impressive how much more you can focus at the office with these noise-killers on. Of course you also look like a dork, but what the hey.