It depends on the type of noise, the source of the noise,
your brain's reaction to the noise, and your ability, or lack thereof,
to tune out a noise that can break your focus.
I work in a cube farm next to three other programmers.
The cube walls are low, and offer no barrier at all to noise.
One worker occasionally has outbursts where he
either becomes excited or agitated and semi-yells
at his screen. It's not that frequent, and though I'm
over-sensitive, I can deal with it.
Another co-worker, while she has a softer voice than the
agitated one, likes to softly talk to herself as she works on a problem.
When she pronounces "s" or soft "c" words, the sound is similar
to a squeaking chipmunk. I have good hearing, am only 5 feet
away from her head, and the other guys don't even notice (at least one has
To me, the "s" sounds this coworker makes are like nails on a chalkboard.
What's more, the noise is un-predictable, because she goes through stretches
where she doesn't talk to herself at all. When she does start talking,
it's pretty much impossible to have consistent focus.
What's funny/sad, too, is if I try to be subtle and say "Shhhhhhhhh...",
she doesn't hear me, because her hearing isn't great.
The situation is very awkward: I don't want to tell her directly to be quiet,
because her whole modus operandi seems to be based on talking to herself,
and she might take serious offense. And this, in turn, makes the noise even
more frustrating - kink of like your fingers getting stuck in a Chinese finger trap.
So I guess that means I better find a quiet cube in a different location,
or find a work environment where noise is not an issue (if there even is
such a thing).
If you read this and you are one who talks to yourself, take a moment
to consider your coworkers!