You also can politely ask a noisy co-worker to moderate her or his voice, and that might alleviate the problem briefly, but both audiologists said the volume is likely to creep back up.
"If it's a cultural thing, it's programmed and it's hard to reprogram, especially as an adult," Farrell said.
"Maybe there's a sign or a signal you can use whenever they're slipping back into the habit," he said. "Something that acts as a friendly reminder."
Sadly, according to basic rules of etiquette and state laws, throwing a chair is not a friendly reminder.
Q: At least once a month I read an article on how fantasy football, interactive Google Doodles or the NCAA men's basketball tournament costs American companies unbelievable amounts of money in lost productivity. Is this true?
— Anonymous, via email
A: The good news is that all the time I've spent nurturing my fantasy football team to a 3-3 record this season has had absolutely no effect on my productivity and is in no way responsible for my trying to wrap this column up 3 minutes before deadline.
I know this because an outplacement consulting firm told me! (Wait a minute …)
Apparently without a hint of irony, the outplacement firm Challenger Gray & Christmas conducted a survey last year asking human resources people across the country whether fantasy football distractions were costing their companies money. Using a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being no noticeable effect, about 70 percent of the respondents put the distraction at 4 or lower.
The survey also found that nearly half of companies say they don't care if workers spend time messing around with fantasy football as long as it doesn't affect the quality or quantity of their work.
Logically, this applies to any of the myriad distractions at our fingertips, from sports to eBay to games.
John Challenger, chief executive of Challenger Gray & Christmas, said the membrane separating work lives and personal lives has become far more permeable than it once was. (Permeable membrane reference brought to you by my 11th-grade biology class.)
"There's no longer a 9-to-5 workday for many people," Challenger said. "We carry our iPhones and computers with us. We work in airports, and we work on weekends. All that work has crept into our personal time, so logically a lot more of our personal time has crept into work hours as well."
Challenger said he believes most companies understand this: "Today, productivity is measured simply in terms of getting your work done. When and how you do it is irrelevant. If you get your work done, and it's high quality, then that's really what's most important."
I applaud companies that take that approach. You have to trust your employees, and implementing draconian rules or banning certain websites or activities only breeds resentment.
Besides, if someone is abusing a company's trust, that will become apparent and can be dealt with appropriately.
Gotta run now. I have an imaginary football team that needs a pep talk.
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