You’re bombarded by noise as soon as you get to the annual company holiday party. You can feel the pumping music, the hum of shouted conversations, and the click of glasses.
It makes you miserable.
You can’t hear anything in this loud setting. The punch lines of jokes are missed, you can’t hear conversations and it’s all extremely disorienting. How can anyone be having fun at this thing? But then you look around and notice that you’re the only person that seems to be having difficulty.
For people with hearing loss, this likely sounds familiar. Distinct stressors can be presented at a holiday office party and for someone who is coping with hearing loss, that can make it a lonely, dark event. But don’t worry! This little survival guide can help you make it through your next holiday party unscathed (and perhaps even have some fun at the same time).
Why holiday parties can be stressful
Even when you don’t have hearing loss, holiday parties are a distinct combination of stress and fun (particularly if you’re an introvert). If you struggle to hear when there is a lot of background noise, holiday parties have unique stressors.
Most notable is the noise. To put it into perspective: a holiday party is your team’s chance to let loose a bit. As a result, they are usually fairly noisy affairs, with lots of people talking over each other all at the same time. Could alcohol be a component here? absolutely. But even dry office parties can be a little on the unruly side.
Some interference is generated by this, especially for individuals with hearing loss. That’s because:
- There are so many people talking simultaneously. One of the side effects of hearing loss is that it’s very hard to pick out one voice among overlapping discussions.
- Talking, music, clinking dishes, laughing, all in the background. Your brain has a hard time separating voices from all of this information.
- When you have hearing loss, indoor parties like office parties can make it even harder to hear because sound tends to become amplified.
This means that picking up and following conversations will be difficult for individuals with hearing loss. This may not sound like a big deal at first.
So… What is the big deal?
The professional and networking aspect of things is where the big deal is. Although office holiday parties are social events in theory, they’re also professional events. It’s normally highly encouraged to go to these events so we’ll probably be there. This means a couple of things:
- 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 section. People will still talk shop, even though it’s a social event it’s also a networking opportunity. This can be an excellent occasion to forge connections. But it’s more challenging when you’re dealing with hearing loss and can’t understand what’s going on because of the overpowering noise.
- You can feel isolated: Who wants to be that person who’s constantly asking people to repeat what they said? Isolation and hearing loss frequently go hand and hand for this reason. Asking family and friends to repeat themselves is one thing but co-workers are a different story. Maybe you’re concerned they will think you’re not competent. And that can damage your work reputation. So, instead, you might simply avoid interactions. You’ll feel left out and left behind, and that’s not a great feeling for anybody!
This can be even more challenging because you may not even realize you have hearing loss. Usually, one of the first indications of hearing loss is the inability to hear in crowded settings (like office parties or crowded restaurants).
As a result, you may be surprised that you’re having a hard time following the conversation. And when you notice you’re the only one, you might be even more alarmed.
Hearing loss causes
So what causes this? How do you develop hearing loss? Age and, or noise damage are the most prevalent causes. Your ears will usually experience repeated damage from loud noise as you age. The fragile hairs in your ear that sense vibrations (called stereocilia) become damaged.
These tiny hairs never heal and can’t be repaired. And the more stereocilia that die, the worse your hearing becomes. Your best bet will be to protect your hearing while you still have it because this kind of hearing loss is usually irreversible.
Armed with this knowledge, you can make that holiday party a little more pleasant in a few ways.
Tips to make your office party more pleasant
Your office party presents some considerable opportunities (and fun!), so you’d rather not skip out. So, when you’re in a loud setting, how can you improve your ability to hear? You can make that office party better and more enjoyable with these tips:
- Try to read lips: You will get better at this the more you practice. And it won’t ever be perfect. But some gaps can be filled in using this technique.
- Take listening breaks: Every hour, take a 15 minute quiet break. In this way, you can prevent yourself from becoming totally exhausted from straining to hear what’s happening.
- Have conversations in quieter locations: Try sitting off to the side or around a corner. When the background noise gets really loud, sitting behind stationary objects can give you little pockets that are slightly less loud.
- Look at faces: Try to spend time with people who have very expressive faces and hand gestures when they speak. The more context clues you can pick up, the more you can fill in any gaps.
- Keep the alcohol drinking to a minimum: Communication is less successful as your thinking gets fuzzy. The whole thing will be much easier if you go easy on the drinking.
Of course, the best possible option is also one of the easiest.: get fitted for a pair of hearing aids. These hearing aids can be tailored to your hearing needs, and they can also be subtle. Even if you go with larger hearing aids it will still be better than asking people to repeat themselves.
Before the party, get your hearing checked
That’s why, if possible, it’s a smart idea to have your hearing tested before the office holiday party. You may not have been to a party since before COVID and you don’t want hearing loss to sneak up and surprise you.