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I have started using headphones at work, and I say to people before I put them on that it is the general office noise I struggle with (even though it is specific people who sniff, cough or talk with their mouths full. When people have colds this is worse and I feel as though I could burst with the build up of anger inside). Like you I feel bad and feel rude for feeling like this, but if I don’t wear my headphones, the alternative would be to just build up into a rage and foul temper and become so desperate that I would offend them anyway with my manner. Because I tell people I am putting the headphones on and I take them off regularly to interact with others, people are fine with it and it sometimes even makes them smile as a standing joke. I find this a better alternative to hurting their feelings and coming across as a misery. Also, just knowing I can escape the ‘trigger noises’ when I need to , by using the headphones, is reassuring and helps me to reduce my levels of frustration, as it is a strategy I know in advance I have up my sleeve when things become unbearable. I could not cope in my current office work environment without this, as I just end up with my stomach in knots and I feel the need to just up and leave. At the end of the day it is not curable, and so we all have to do whatever we can to manage/cope. Although not ideal, wearing headphones for me is certainly the lesser of 2 evils.