Noise-Canceling Ear Muffs Are the Secret to Peace

Like a construction worker, I also use them for work

Senior man working as a carpenter in his workshop. About 65 years old, Caucasian male.
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Cancel culture

I am not ashamed to say I struggle to focus. According to Human Design, I am a “manifesting generator,” which apparently means I am supposed to create, but not necessarily finish what I start. Unfortunately, Human Design does not offer a solution for how I should make money without completing my assignments. I spend a lot of time trying to find a place of peace through meditation and procrastination, but there are instances in which the only thing that can get me to calm down and take care of business is a little bit of physical restraint. That’s why I wear noise-canceling ear muffs.

Even if you manage not to pay attention to all the noise that surrounds you, it’s there: a hissing radiator, growling motorcycles, leaf blowers, a snoring dog, the thudding of someone running downstairs, and a random screaming baby on the sidewalk all comprise the static orchestra of my day. Most of the time I relish distraction, which is exactly why I have to block off all those vibrations before they hit my brain when I am trying to work. With ear muffs, the diversions melt away, sending me into a hollow, noiseless vacuum where my CPU can take a load off and focus on the task at hand.

Although they are sold primarily for workplace hearing protection, you don’t have to be on a construction site to use noise-canceling ear muffs. Ambient sounds are a different, softer type of menace, and you should protect yourself from them as well.

Hence the ear muffs, which don’t exactly look cool. At best they resemble regular headphones, but mine are a bright yellow entry-level option that screams construction site. I have a taste for industrial design so I don’t mind the look, but I love that they also proclaim “I’m not listening” without having to say anything at all. They can create a mental oasis on a subway ride home, or serenity in a busy museum. And because they’re not actual headphones, which can connect to the sound on my laptop and phone, ear muffs deter me from dipping into an app as often, because taking off the ear muffs to exit my snug fortress of emptiness signifies a devastating departure.

This bit of sensory deprivation helps me down the volume on existence and turn it up on experience. It means the chime of an incoming email can’t make my heart sink out of the blue while I’m searching for the right word or sentence or thought. It is once again possible for me to read a book for more than five minutes straight.

But there is one drawback to all this: the noise-canceling earmuffs can be so effective that when I wear them, I forget about everything else. That’s definitely the point, but it’s important to make sure you don’t have any looming responsibilities when you decide to shut your ears off to the world, nothing simmering on the stove or people who might need your assistance nearby. Barring all that, you can safely live noise-free for hours, going about your day with a sense of calm that comes from nothing at all. Nothing except my noise-canceling ear muffs.