You’re assaulted by noise as soon as you arrive at the yearly company holiday party. The din of shouted conversations, the clanging of glasses, and the throbbing beat of music are all mixing in your ears.
You’re not enjoying it at all.
You can’t hear anything in this loud setting. You can’t keep up with conversations, you can’t hear the punch line of any joke, and you’re totally disoriented. How can this be fun for anyone? But as the evening goes on, you see that you’re the only person having difficulty.
This probably sounds familiar for individuals who are dealing with hearing loss. Unique stressors can be presented at a holiday office party and for a person who is coping with hearing loss, that can make it a lonely, dark event. But have no fear! This little survival guide can help you get through your next holiday party unharmed (and maybe even have some fun while you’re at it).
Why holiday parties can be stressful
Even when you don’t have hearing loss, holiday parties are a distinct blend of stress and fun (particularly if you’re an introvert). For people with hearing loss or if you struggle to hear with loud background noise, holiday parties present some unique stressors.
The noise itself is the most prominent. To put it into perspective: Holiday parties are your chance to loosen your tie and cut loose. In a setting like this, people tend to talk at higher volumes and frequently all at once. Alcohol can certainly play a part. But even dry office parties can be a little on the unruly side.
Some interference is generated by this, especially for individuals who have hearing loss. Here are some reasons for this:
- There are so many people talking simultaneously. It’s not easy to pick out one voice from many when you have hearing loss.
- Talking, music, clinking dishes, laughing, all in the background. Your brain has a hard time isolating voices from all of this information.
- When you have hearing loss, indoor parties such as office parties can make it even more difficult to hear because sound can become amplified.
This means that hearing and following conversations will be challenging for people who have hearing loss. At first look, that might sound like a small thing.
So… What is the big deal?
The professional and networking aspect of things is where the big deal is. Office holiday parties, though they are surficially social gatherings, a lot of networking is done and connections are made. 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 chance to network with employees from other departments or even catch up with co-workers in your own section. People will still talk shop, even though it’s a social event it’s also a networking occasion. This can be an excellent chance to make connections. But it’s harder when you’re dealing with hearing loss and can’t make out what’s happening because of the overwhelming noise.
- You can feel isolated: Most people are hesitant to be the one that says “what?” constantly. Isolation and hearing loss frequently go hand and hand for this reason. Asking friends and family to repeat themselves is one thing but co-workers are a different story. They might mistake your hearing loss for incompetence. Your reputation may be damaged. So, instead, you might simply avoid interactions. No one likes feeling left out.
You might not even recognize that you have hearing loss, which will make this an even bigger problem. The inability to hear well in noisy environments (such as restaurants or office parties) is usually one of those first indications of hearing loss.
You may be caught by surprise when you begin to have trouble following conversations. And you may be even more alarmed that you’re the only one.
Causes of hearing loss
So what causes this? How does hearing loss develop? Age and, or noise damage are the most prevalent causes. Essentially, as you get older, your ears likely experience repeated damage as a consequence of loud noises. The tiny hairs in your ear that detect vibrations (called stereocilia) become damaged.
These tiny hairs never heal and can’t be repaired. And the more stereocilia that kick the bucket, the worse your hearing becomes. In most circumstances, this type of hearing loss is irreversible (so you’re better off protecting your hearing before the damage occurs).
Knowing all that, there are ways you can make your holiday office party a little less unpleasant!
Tips to make your office party more enjoyable
You don’t want to miss out on the fun and opportunities that come along with that office holiday party. So, you’re thinking: how can I improve my hearing in a noisy environment? You can make that office party better and more enjoyable with these tips:
- Look at faces: Try to spend time with people who have very expressive faces and hand gestures when they speak. The more contextual clues you can pick up, the more you can make up for any gaps.
- Try to read lips: This can take a little practice (and good lighting). And you will probably never perfect this. But some gaps can be filled in with this technique.
- Take listening breaks: Take a 15 minute quiet break each hour. In this way, you can avoid becoming completely exhausted from straining to hear what’s going on.
- Find a quieter place to have those conversations: Maybe try sitting on a couch or around a corner. When the ambient noise gets really loud, sitting behind stationary objects can provide little pockets that are slightly less loud.
- Keep the alcohol drinking to a minimum: If your thinking starts to get a little blurry, 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.
Of course, there’s an even more ideal solution: get fitted for a pair of hearing aids. These hearing aids can be customized to your hearing needs, and they can also be subtle. Even if your hearing aids aren’t small, you’d rather people notice your hearing aids than your hearing loss.
Before the party, get your hearing tested
If possible, take a hearing test before you go to the party. Due to COVID, this might be your first holiday party in a few years, and you don’t want to be surprised by your hearing issues!