I’ve worked from home for the last eleven years. For the last nine years, I’ve lived near the middle of a market town in the north east of England. You wouldn’t believe the amount of noise.
As respondents in this Hacker News thread comment, you kind of get used to it, and also work around particularly loud noise. However, the struggle is real and now that my wife and I both work from home it’s a factor in us moving.
I’d second the opinion of the commenter I’ve quoted below about getting headphones with at least two levels of noise cancellation. I bought some Sony WH-CH720N cans when they started building behind my home office and they’ve been a godsend.
My personal experience as a big-city dweller who has also worked for prolonged stints in suburban and very rural places is that the suburban version of this problem can really be the worst of both worlds.
When I’m vising my parents in the suburbs… its generally quiet, but that one leaf blower 4 doors down or the one garbage truck crawling down the block suddenly becomes the only thing I can focus on. The noises are infrequent and jarring when they occur.
When I’m at home in my city apartment, the background noise is truly constant – it forms a canvas, nothing really jumps out and therefore the level of what it takes to make a distraction is a lot higher.
My practical advice is to explore headphones with passive noise isolation instead of active noise cancelling. The passive isolation is pretty foolproof, even with sudden or extreme changes in background noise content that the active noise cancelling sometimes takes a moment to adjust to (or perhaps try something like working in a coffee shop for an hour to get the other extreme and reset: write emails where distraction is more OK, come home to the relative quiet of the home office for focus time. I’ve also found even a change of scenery can get me into the zone regardless of what is going on environmentally)