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 clattering of glasses.
You’re not enjoying it at all.
You can’t hear anything in this loud environment. You can’t follow conversations, you can’t hear the punch line of any joke, and you’re totally disoriented. How can this be fun for anyone? But then you look around and notice that you’re the only one that seems to be having difficulty.
For people with hearing loss, this likely sounds familiar. Unique stressors can be introduced at a holiday office party and for somebody with hearing loss, that can make it a lonely, dark event. But have no fear! You can get through the next holiday party without a problem with this little survival guide and perhaps you will even have a good time.
Why holiday parties can be stressful
Holiday parties can be a unique combination of fun and stress, (if you’re introverted this is especially true) even if your hearing is healthy. 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 little bit. As a result, they are usually fairly noisy events, with lots of people talking over each other all at once. Alcohol can absolutely play a part. But it can also be really loud at dry office parties.
Some interference is created by this, especially for individuals who have hearing loss. That’s because:
- Office parties feature dozens of people all talking simultaneously. It’s difficult to pick out one voice from many when you have hearing loss.
- Lots of background noise, laughing, clanking dishes, music, and so on. Your brain has a difficult time separating voices from all of this information.
- Indoor events tend to boost the noise of crowds, meaning an indoor office party is even harder on your ears when you are dealing with hearing loss.
This means that hearing and following conversations will be difficult for individuals who have hearing loss. At first look, that may sound like a small thing.
So… What is the big deal?
The big deal is in the networking and professional aspect of things. Office holiday parties, though they are supposed to be social gatherings, a lot of networking is done and connections are made. It’s usually 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 a great opportunity to network with employees from other departments or even meet up with co-workers in your own section. It’s a social event, but people will still talk shop, so it’s also a networking event. You can use this event to make new connections. But when you’re dealing with hearing loss the noise can be overpowering and it can become hard to talk with anyone.
- You can feel isolated: Most people are hesitant to be the one that says “what?” constantly. This is one reason why hearing loss and solitude often go hand-in-hand. Even if you ask your friends and family to sometimes repeat themselves, it’s not the same with colleagues. They might mistake your hearing loss for incompetence. Your reputation may be compromised. So perhaps you just avoid interaction instead. You’ll feel left out and left behind, and that’s not a fun feeling for anybody!
This can be even more challenging because you might not even recognize you have hearing loss. The inability to hear well in noisy settings (such as restaurants or office parties) is usually one of those first signs of hearing loss.
As a result, you may be alarmed that you’re having difficulty following the conversation. And you may be even more surprised that you’re the only one.
Causes of hearing loss
So how does this take place? How does hearing loss develop? Age and, or noise damage are the most prevalent causes. Basically, as you get older, your ears most likely experience repeated injury as a result of loud noises. The stereocilia (fragile hairs in your ears that sense vibrations) become damaged.
These little hairs never heal and can’t be repaired. And your hearing will keep getting worse the more stereocilia that are damaged. Your best bet will be to safeguard your hearing while you still have it because this type of hearing loss is typically permanent.
Knowing all that, there are ways you can make your holiday office party a bit less unpleasant!
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, you’re thinking: how can I improve my hearing in a noisy setting? Well, here are some tips to make your office party go a little smoother:
- Refrain from drinking too many adult beverages: Communication will be less effective as your thinking gets blurry. In other words, avoid the alcohol. It’ll make the whole process a lot smoother.
- Have conversations in quieter locations: Try hanging out off to the side or around a corner. In some cases, stationary objects can block a lot of sound and provide you with a slightly quiet(er) pocket, and you’ll be able to hear better during loud ambient noise.
- Look at faces: Try to spend time with individuals who have very expressive faces and hand gestures when they speak. You will be able to fill in comprehension gaps using these contextual signals.
- Take listening breaks: Take a 15 minute quiet break each hour. This will help stop you from getting completely exhausted after trying to listen really hard.
- Try to read lips: You will get better at this the more you practice. And you will most likely never perfect this. But some gaps can be filled in using this technique.
Naturally, the best possible option is also one of the simplest.: get fitted for a set 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 see your hearing aids than your hearing loss.
Get your hearing checked before the party
If possible, take a hearing test before you go to the party. Due to COVID, this may be your first holiday party in a few years, and you don’t want to be surprised by your inability to hear!