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 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 setting. The punch lines of jokes are missed, you can’t hear conversations and it’s all really disorienting. How can anybody be enjoying this thing? But then you look around and notice that you’re the only person that seems to be having trouble.
This most likely sounds familiar for individuals who suffer from hearing loss. Distinct 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 make it through your next holiday party unscathed (and maybe even have some fun at the same time).
Holiday parties can be stressful, here’s why
Holiday parties are usually a unique combination of fun and stress, (if you’re introverted this is particularly true) even if your hearing is healthy. For people who have hearing loss or if you struggle to hear with loud background noise, holiday parties introduce some unique stressors.
First and foremost is the noise. Think about it in this way: Holiday parties are your chance to loosen your tie and cut loose. This means they are usually rather noisy events, with everyone talking over each other all at the same time. Alcohol can certainly play a part. But it can also be really loud at dry office parties.
Some interference is produced by this, especially for people with hearing loss. That’s because:
- There are so many people talking at the same time. It’s not easy to isolate one voice from many when you have hearing loss.
- Talking, music, clinking dishes, laughing, all in the background. Your brain has a difficult time isolating 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 anyone with hearing loss will experience trouble picking up and following conversations. This may not sound like a big deal at first.
So… What is the big deal?
The big deal is the professional and networking aspect of things. Even though office holiday parties are theoretically social events, they’re also professional events. At any rate, attendance is often encouraged, so here we are. This means a couple of things:
- You can network: Holiday parties are a great chance to network with employees from other departments or even catch up with co-workers in your own section. Work will be discussed, even though it’s a social event it’s also a networking opportunity. 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 be hard to talk with anyone.
- You can feel isolated: Most individuals are reluctant to be the one that says “what?” all the time. Isolation and hearing loss frequently go hand and hand because of this. Asking family and friends to repeat themselves is one thing but co-workers are a different story. They might mistake your hearing loss for incompetence. Your reputation could be compromised. So, instead, you may simply avoid interactions. No one likes feeling left out.
This can be even more problematic because you may not even recognize you have hearing loss. 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 might be surprised that you’re having a difficult time following the conversation. And you may be even more alarmed 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. Your ears will normally take repeated damage from loud noise as you age. The fragile hairs in your ear that sense vibrations (called stereocilia) become damaged.
That damage is permanent. 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 kind of hearing loss is usually irreversible.
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
Your office party offers some considerable opportunities (and fun!), so you really want to go. So, when you’re in a loud environment, how can you hear better? Well, here are a few tips to make your office party go a little smoother:
- Have conversations in quieter places: Possibly try sitting on a couch or around a corner. When the ambient 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.
- Take listening breaks: Take a 15 minute quiet break every hour. This will help prevent you from getting completely exhausted after having to listen really hard.
- Try to read lips: You will improve the more you practice. And you will most likely never perfect this. But reading lips may be able to help you fill in some of the gaps.
- Refrain from drinking too many cocktails: Communication will be less successful as your thinking gets blurry. In other words, steer clear of the alcohol. It’ll make the whole process much easier.
Of course, the best possible solution is also one of the simplest.: get fitted for a set of hearing aids. Hearing aids can be discrete and personalized to your specific hearing needs. Even if your hearing aids aren’t small, you’d rather people notice your hearing aids than your hearing loss.
Get your hearing checked before the party
If possible, get 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 hearing issues!