I guess I'm a rather fortunate individual. Our management allows us to play music in the labs, or even to wear earphones while working at the bench. Since not everyone enjoys the music I do (although really, who doesn't like sea shanties, ukulele-driven pop music, and irish drinking songs?!!), I've tried several times to wear headphones at the bench.
It drives me batty. Maybe it's because my hearing isn't what it once was. Maybe it's just my nosy side. Either way, I can't stand being cut off from the sounds around me. It feels like something of a safety concern, as well. I mean, if someone drops a tank of phosgene, snapping off the valve and flooding the lab with poisonous gas, I want to at least have the advanced warning of hearing the bodies drop, so that I'll have time to collect myself for finding out what it REALLY smells like.
My solution has been to only use one earbud. Let me tell you, this is a sucky solution. That dangling bud acts as a counterweight, slowly tugging the active earbud from the ear. It also catches on things... ID badges... buttons.... flasks full of solutions made from highly expensive and difficult to synthesize compounds... that kind of thing. Really, it's a no-go.
Well, if you've had similar problems, let me tell you that help has arrived. It's the 1-Bud... A single earbud with a special jack configured to play both channels of the stereo into one ear. I've wanted one since I found them early this year. Unfortunately, messages on their site indicated that the existing version wouldn't work with my MP3 player. But a new version was being developed, so I waited.
And the wait was worth it! Nice sound, fits comfortably into my ear, and the perfect length! Sure, the styling is a little "Disco 76" (white with gold accents), but what the hell. And if you're not restricted by having a Creative brand MP3 player, you have a full range of options, including earcuff style, and colors including white, black and "if your skin is really this color, you should probably see a doctor" skin tone. It's $13 plus S&H.
There, now my public service for the month is done. Oh, in case you're interested, these things weren't developed for people like me (talk about your niche market!). They were developed for people with hearing loss in one ear who still want to hear both channels of their stereo. Without the internet, I'd never have learned of these, much less found a source for them. All hail, Mighty Web!