You get to your company’s yearly holiday party and you’re instantly assaulted by noise. The din of shouted conversations, the clanging of glasses, and the pulsating beat of music are all mixing in your ears.
You’re not enjoying it at all.
You can’t hear a thing in this noisy environment. The punch lines of jokes are getting lost, you can’t make out conversations and it’s all extremely disorienting. How can anybody be enjoying this thing? But then you look around and see that you’re the only one that seems to be having trouble.
For individuals with hearing loss, this likely sounds familiar. The office holiday party can present some unique stressors and as a result, what should be a jolly occasion is nothing more than a dour, lonely event. But have no fear! You can get through the next holiday party without difficulty with this little survival guide and perhaps you will even enjoy yourself.
Holiday parties can be stressful, here’s why
Even when you don’t have hearing loss, holiday parties are a unique blend of stress and fun (especially if you’re an introvert). If you struggle to hear when there is a lot of background noise, holiday parties come with distinct stressors.
Most notable is the noise. Think about it in this way: Holiday parties are your chance to loosen your tie and cut loose. In a setting like this, individuals tend to talk at louder volumes and often at the same time. Alcohol can absolutely play a part. But it can also be really loud at dry office parties.
Some interference is produced by this, especially for people who have hearing loss. Here are some reasons for this:
- There are so many people talking at the same time. It’s difficult to isolate one voice from many when you’re dealing with hearing loss.
- Talking, music, clinking dishes, laughing, all in the background. Your brain has a difficult time separating voices from all of this information.
- Indoor events tend to magnify the noise of crowds, meaning an indoor office party is even tougher on your ears when you are dealing with hearing loss.
This means anybody with hearing loss will experience trouble hearing and following conversations. At first glance, that may sound like a small thing.
So… What is the big deal?
The professional and networking aspect of things is where the big deal is. Even though office holiday parties are theoretically social events, they’re also professional events. At any rate, attendance is usually encouraged, so here we are. Here are a couple of things to consider:
- You can network: Holiday parties are an ideal opportunity to network with employees from other departments or even catch up with co-workers in your own department. Work will be discussed, even though it’s a social event it’s also a networking occasion. You can use this event to forge new connections. But it’s more challenging when you have hearing loss and can’t make out what’s going on because of the overwhelming noise.
- You can feel isolated: Most individuals are reluctant to be the one that says “what?” all the time. Isolation and hearing loss often go hand and hand because of this. Even if you ask your friends and family to occasionally repeat themselves, it’s not the same with colleagues. They might mistake your hearing loss for incompetence. And that can damage your work reputation. So, instead, you may simply avoid interactions. No one likes feeling left out.
You might not even know that you have hearing loss, which will make this an even bigger problem. Usually, one of the first signs of hearing loss is the inability to hear in crowded settings (such as office parties or crowded restaurants).
As a result, you may be surprised that you’re having difficulty following the conversation. And when you observe you’re the only one, you may be even more concerned.
Causes of hearing loss
So what causes this? How do you develop hearing loss? Age and, or noise damage are the most prevalent causes. Your ears will usually take repeated injury from loud noise as you age. The tiny hairs in your ear that detect vibrations (called stereocilia) become compromised.
These tiny hairs never heal and can’t be healed. And the more stereocilia that die, the worse your hearing will be. Your best bet will be to safeguard your hearing while you still have it because this type of hearing loss is normally permanent.
Armed with this knowledge, you can make that holiday party a little more enjoyable in a few ways.
How to enjoy this year’s office party
You’d rather not miss out on the fun and opportunities that come along with that office holiday party. So, when you’re in a loud setting, how can you improve your ability to hear? Well, here are some tips to make your office party go a little better:
- Take listening breaks: Every hour, give yourself a 15 minute quiet break. By doing this, you can prevent yourself from becoming completely exhausted from struggling to hear what’s happening.
- Keep the alcohol drinking to a minimum: If your thoughts start to get a little fuzzy, it’s a good bet you’ll be unable to communicate successfully. The whole thing will be much easier if you take it easy on the drinking.
- Find a quieter place to have those conversations: Try sitting off to the side or around a corner. When the background noise gets too loud, sitting behind stationary objects can provide little pockets that are slightly less loud.
- Look at faces: And possibly even spend some time with people who have very expressive faces or hand gestures. You will be capable of filling in comprehension gaps using these contextual clues.
- Try to read lips: This can take some practice (and good lighting). And it won’t ever be perfect. But some gaps can be filled in with this technique.
Of course, there’s an even more ideal solution: get yourself a pair of hearing aids. These hearing aids can be customized to your hearing needs, and they can also be discrete. Even if your hearing aids aren’t small, you’d rather people notice your hearing aids than your hearing loss.
Get your hearing assessed before the party
If possible, take a hearing test before you go to the party. You might not have been to a party since before COVID and you don’t want hearing loss to catch you off guard.