You arrive at your company’s yearly holiday party and you’re instantly bombarded by noise. 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.
In such a noisy environment, you can’t hear a thing. The punch lines of jokes are getting lost, you can’t hear conversations and it’s all really disorienting. How can this be enjoyable for anyone? But as the evening continues, you see that you’re the only one having trouble.
For people who suffer from hearing loss, this most likely sounds familiar. The office holiday party can present some unique stressors and consequently, what should be a jolly affair is nothing more than a dark, solitary event. But have no fear! You can get through the next holiday party without a problem with this little survival guide and maybe you will even enjoy yourself.
Holiday parties can be stressful, here’s why
Holiday parties are usually a unique blend of fun and stress, (if you’re introverted this is particularly true) even if your hearing is healthy. If you struggle to hear when there’s a lot of background noise, holiday parties come with 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. This means they are usually fairly noisy events, with lots of people talking over each other all at the same time. Could alcohol be a factor here? Yes, yes it can. But it can also be quite loud at dry office parties.
For those who have hearing loss, this noise generates a certain degree of interference. That’s because:
- Office parties feature lots of people all talking simultaneously. It’s not easy to isolate one voice from many when you have hearing loss.
- Lots of background noise, laughing, clinking dishes, music, and so on. Your brain has a difficult time separating voices from all of this information.
- When you have hearing loss, indoor parties like office parties can make it even more difficult to hear because sound tends to become amplified.
This means that picking up and following conversations will be difficult for people with hearing loss. This may not sound like a big deal at first.
So… What is the big deal?
The professional and networking side of things is where the big deal is. Office holiday parties, though they are supposed to be social events, a lot of networking is done and connections are made. It’s normally highly encouraged to attend these events so we’ll probably be there. Here are a couple of things to think about:
- You can network: Holiday parties are a great opportunity to network with employees from other departments or even meet up with co-workers in your own department. It’s a social event, but people will still talk shop, so it’s also a networking event. This can be a fantastic opportunity to make connections. But it’s much harder when you have hearing loss and can’t understand what’s happening because of the overpowering noise.
- You can feel isolated: Most people are hesitant to be the one that says “what?” all the time. Isolation and hearing loss frequently go hand and hand because of this. Even if you ask your family and friends to sometimes repeat themselves, it’s not the same with co-workers. They may mistake your hearing loss for incompetence. Your reputation could be compromised. So, instead, you might simply avoid interactions. You’ll feel left out and left behind, and that’s not a fun feeling for anyone!
You might not even realize that you have hearing loss, which will make this an even bigger issue. Typically, 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 might be surprised that you’re having a hard time following the conversation. And you may be even more alarmed that you’re the only one.
Causes of hearing loss
So what is the cause of this? How do you develop hearing loss? Age and, or noise damage are the most prevalent causes. Essentially, as you age, your ears likely experience repeated injury as a consequence of loud noises. The stereocilia (delicate hairs in your ears that detect vibrations) become compromised.
That damage is permanent. And your hearing will keep getting worse the more stereocilia that die. In most circumstances, this type of hearing loss is permanent (so you’re better off protecting your hearing before the damage occurs).
With this knowledge, there are ways you can make your holiday office party a little less unpleasant!
Tips to make your office party more pleasant
Your office party presents some considerable opportunities (and fun!), so you really want to go. So, you’re thinking: how can I improve my hearing in a noisy setting? You can make that office party better and more enjoyable with these tips:
- Try to read lips: You will improve the more you practice. And it won’t ever be perfect. But reading lips may be able to help you make up for some of the gaps.
- Look at faces: Try to spend time with individuals who have very expressive faces and hand gestures when they talk. You will be able to fill in comprehension gaps using these contextual clues.
- Refrain from drinking too many cocktails: If your thoughts start to get a little fuzzy, it’s a good bet you’ll be unable to communicate effectively. Simply put, steer clear of the alcohol. It’ll make the whole process a lot easier.
- Find a quieter place to talk with people: Possibly try sitting on a couch or around a corner. When the background noise gets really loud, sitting behind stationary objects can give you little pockets that are slightly quieter.
- Take listening breaks: Every hour, take a 15 minute quiet break. This will help stop you from getting totally exhausted after having to listen really hard.
Naturally, the best possible option is also one of the simplest.: get fitted for a pair of hearing aids. These hearing aids can be personalized 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.
Before the party, get your hearing checked
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.