How-To Geek

Drown Out That Annoying Co-Worker (Without Hurting Your Ears)

So you’re sitting at your desk working on your TPS reports, but how are you supposed to remember the cover sheet with your annoying co-worker that just won’t shut up? Accounts payable Nina speaking, just a moment! Shut up!

Accounts Payable Nina Speaking, Just a moment!

Sure, you can always put on a set of headphones and turn the music all the way up. But if you are like me, you can’t really concentrate on your work with loud music playing, and soft music doesn’t drown anybody out.

Noise Canceling Headphones

Sure, you can always check out a pair of expensive noise canceling headphones. They work well, but they aren’t cheap. And I don’t know about you, but I don’t really like having a giant pair of headphones on—especially if I’m somewhere else other than my desk.

Noise Canceling Headphones

Sony MDR-NC60 Noise Canceling Headphone

The solution: White Noise!

The best way to drown somebody out without breaking your eardrums or losing your concentration is to use some white noise. Personally, I’m a fan of the SimplyNoise generator—specifically the brown/red noise with an oscillating volume level. It ends up sounding very similar to waves at the ocean, which would also probably work well for drowning somebody out.


Use the SimplyNoise white noise generator

Add Something Pleasant to the Background

So now you’ve got your white noise going, and your co-worker’s annoying mouth is just a distant memory—but it’s just a little boring. You can use the Zendesk buddha machine wall to add some pleasant Zen sounds that will help get you in the concentrating mood. Just click on any of the speakers, and then choose a sound. You can combine multiple sounds together for a very soothing experience.


Use the FM3 Buddha Machine Wall

…Or Just Listen to Music

You can just combine the white noise generator with some fairly mellow, appropriate music.

I love Depeche Mode

The white noise fills in the quiet spots in the song, so you won’t have to hear anybody.

So how do you drown out those annoying co-workers?

Lowell Heddings, better known online as the How-To Geek, spends all his free time bringing you fresh geekery on a daily basis. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 08/12/09

Comments (12)

  1. DemoGeek

    This is a typical problem at workplace. Printer noise, people walking by, phones, chit-chat and what not! I used to listen to music but hard to focus much if the song is pretty familiar and you go with the flow of the song. Sure, it might help when you are at the gym but not when your mind needs to be focused. It looks like SimplyNoise and ZenDesk Wall are great solutions to this annoying workplace issue.

    It good that SimplyNoise have a download option so if streaming is an issue you can download it and listen locally. Also, make sure to turn-on the “Repeat” mode on your media player.

  2. Grant Johsnon

    Simple solution: Be louder an more annoying than your coworkers!

  3. s

    Normal “office” noise, like printers, etc., don’t bug me at all. What bugs me is when people are unreasonably noisy, like using speakerphones when they don’t need to (I work next to a guy who dials the phone while the handset is in the cradle, so it automatically switches to speakerphone. I hear a loud dial tone, then the loud beeping of the digits as he dials, and then the ringing sound, and then he picks up the handset. Every time he makes a call, he does this… And when he dials into his voice mail, I have to hear his messages, too…). And then there are the idiots who keep their personal mobile phone ringers at normal volume, so we have to hear their annoying ringtones, and the constant sounds of incoming text messages & IMs.

    Am I too picky? I say stay off speaker phone unless you need it, put your personal mobiles on vibrate, and if you’re going to listen to those stupid videos someone emailed to you, or talk radio, or music, or Hulu, use headphones/earbuds.

    Anyway, thanks for the links – I need ’em! :o)

  4. ScottW

    Great article Geek! That Zendesk site is, well “groovy” is the word that comes to me. Personally, I don’t like the idea of adding more noise to a noisy workplace, but I guess that at a low volume, the SimplyNoise generator will only cover the area of one person’s cube. Here at home with quad speakers and the Speaker Fill option, the red/brown noise sounds like being inside a waterfall!

    I have been disappointed in all of the noise-cancelling headphones I have tried. There are certain frequencies that they don’t block and certain types of noise that causes them to hiss. For listening to music, I far prefer in-ear headphones. When properly seated and with music at a low volume (be careful!) the sound of the outside world is just gone! I have the Shure E2C — expensive but worth it.

    Milton has another way to eliminate the noise: “I could burn down the building.” :-)

  5. Clint

    WARNING! Be careful to not confuse the brown noise with the fabled brown note. One will help cover the annoying noise of neighbors while the other will help cover your shorts….

  6. odeho19

    Clicked on the Zendesk link, and got an error message on their site stating that I had clicked on a bad link. (?) Simply Noise works great! Thanks…..

  7. Ben

    am I the only one who only hears sound in the right ear on the zendesk site? Simplynoise works fine, both ears there.

  8. Jess

    I wish I had the option to wear headphones and listen to music… I have a co-worker that clears her throat and then coughs and sniffs every 5 seconds (really annoying). I have been here for 2 years and everyone else around 10, so no one else notices it except for all of the new people. Some days when we are busy, I don’t notice it but when we are slow, I feel like gouging my eyes out. Unfortunately there is no way to confront her about it because it’s some type of condition like OCD or touretts… It has to be. Any suggestions for that?

  9. kc

    I have an irritating neighbor who likes to play loud music and the thump-thump sounds of drums, etc annoys me. I tried the white noise on your site to max volume but still didn’t cut out the thump-thump music. Oh – he also has this awfully noisy car – modified to make a F1 car noise.

    Any suggestions ?


  10. Sophia

    Um, this is kind of awesome. I googled “something to drown out noise” pretty sure I would get nothing. Then I ended up here. Thank you! No more feeling awkward with my very lovey-dovey roommate & her boyfriend. Huzzah!

  11. Bry

    Talking about music…….

    There is one in your XP computer if you are searching for a nice, quiet (not really) and relaxing song.

    Here’s where it is:


    p.s. No need to worry about Pro edition or not, it should be there. And XP only.

  12. tessa

    I downloaded an app onto my phone called Sleepy Time that has a bunch of sounds that drown out noise… normally I just use it to fall asleep (I work midnight shifts so it helps drown out daytime noises throughout the house), but on nights that this one guy works with me, who just HAS to listen to some creepy boys’ choir cd -ON REPEAT-, it’s about the only thing that allows me to keep my sanity. I’m listening to “Airplane Cabin” right now. Unfortunately, the second I take my headphones out to answer a call, I can hear that music playing again. It’s really hard not to throw a chair at him.

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