If you were to walk by me in my office it would be a rather rare occasion to find me without headphones on. My coworkers are loud on a rather obnoxious level, and I am easily irritated by noise. My iPod is generally my only point of sanity. I keep the volume louder than I should just to drown people out.
Of course this plan sometimes backfires as my coworkers think that since I have my headphones on they can talk as loud as they like because they won't disturb me. The thing is, to drown out someone who is in the next cube, separated only by a few inches of cube wall, the volume has to be loud enough to do hearing damage. Also if someone comes up to talk to me I need to know they are there so I need to keep the volume at a reasonable level.
I have discovered though that the headphones do discourage people from speaking to me. Whether I can hear them or not, I can easily just ignore them. People like to stop and ask me for directions or where someone is. Instead of informing them that I am not anyones secretary I just pretend I can't hear them.
I have a little mirror on my desk that allows me to see who is behind me. I know they are there, I have seen them. The thing is they never seem to notice that I have a mirror for that purpose. So they will try once or twice and then move on to ask the next person down where that guy has gone.
Today I am actually just sitting with my headphones on. They are not plugged into anything at all. I had put them on to listen to something on my computer, but when I was done I unplugged them because the cord was draped over my keyboard and annoying me. I sat like this for almost 20 minutes before I even realized I hadn't plugged them into anything and had no purpose in wearing them. I just forgot to take them off.
This has happened before.
I am sure it will happen again.