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.
In such a loud environment, you can’t hear a thing. The punch lines of jokes are getting lost, you can’t hear conversations and it’s all very disorienting. How can this be enjoyable for anyone? But then you look around and notice that you’re the only person that seems to be having trouble.
For individuals with hearing loss, this probably sounds familiar. Unique stressors can be presented at a holiday office party and for a person with hearing loss, that can make it a solitary, 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.
Holiday parties can be stressful, here’s why
Even when you don’t have hearing loss, holiday parties are a unique blend of stress and fun (especially 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 prevalent. Think about it like this: Holiday parties are your chance to loosen your tie and cut loose. In a setting like this, people tend to talk at louder volumes and frequently at the same time. Could alcohol be a factor here? Yes, yes it can. But even dry office parties can get to be a little on the boisterous side.
Some interference is produced by this, especially for individuals who have hearing loss. Here are some reasons for this:
- There are so many people talking at the same time. It’s not easy to isolate one voice from many when you’re dealing with hearing loss.
- Lots of background noise, laughing, clanking dishes, music, and so on. 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 picking up and following conversations will be difficult for people with hearing loss. At first glimpse, that might sound like a small thing.
So… What is the big deal?
The big deal is in the professional and networking aspect of things. Even though office holiday parties are social events in theory, they’re also professional events. In any event, attendance is often encouraged, so here we are. This means a couple of things:
- You can network: Holiday parties are a great opportunity to network with employees from other departments or even catch up with co-workers in your own department. People will still talk shop, even though it’s a social event it’s also a networking occasion. You can use this event to make new connections. But it’s more challenging when you have hearing loss and can’t make out what’s going on because of the overwhelming noise.
- You can feel isolated: Who wants to be that person who’s always asking people to repeat themselves? This is one reason why hearing loss and solitude often go hand-in-hand. Asking friends and family to repeat themselves is one thing but co-workers are a different story. They may mistake your hearing loss for incompetence. And that can harm your work reputation. So maybe you just avoid interaction instead. No one enjoys feeling left out.
This can be even more troublesome because you may not even realize you have hearing loss. The inability to hear clearly in noisy settings (such as restaurants or office parties) is usually one of those first indications of hearing loss.
You may be caught off guard when you start to have difficulty following conversations. And when you notice you’re the only one, you may be even more surprised.
Hearing loss causes
So what is the cause of this? How does hearing loss happen? Usually, it’s caused by age or noise damage (or age and noise damage). Basically, as you get older, your ears most likely experience repeated injury due to loud noises. The stereocilia (delicate hairs in your ears that detect vibrations) become damaged.
These tiny hairs won’t heal and can’t be healed. And your hearing will keep getting worse the more stereocilia that die. In most cases, hearing loss like this is irreversible (so you’re better off protecting your hearing before the injury takes place).
With this knowledge, there are ways you can make your holiday office party a bit less unpleasant!
Tips to make your office party more pleasant
You don’t want to miss out on the fun and opportunities that come along with that office holiday party. 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 using these tips:
- Refrain from drinking too many cocktails: If your thoughts start to get a little blurry, it’s a good bet you’ll be unable to communicate effectively. Simply put, avoid the alcohol. It’ll make the whole process a lot easier.
- Try to read lips: You will improve the more you practice. And you will probably never perfect this. But some gaps can be filled in using this technique.
- Take listening breaks: Every hour, take a 15 minute quiet break. This will help prevent you from becoming completely exhausted after having to listen really hard.
- Find a less noisy place to have those conversations: Try hanging out off to the side or around a corner. When the ambient noise gets too loud, sitting behind stationary objects can provide little pockets that are slightly quieter.
- Look at faces: And maybe even spend some time with individuals who have really expressive faces or hand gestures. The more contextual clues you can pick up, the more you can make up for any gaps.
Naturally, the best possible solution is also one of the simplest.: invest in a pair of hearing aids. Hearing aids can be discrete and tailored to your particular hearing needs. Even if you opt for larger hearing aids it will still be better than asking people to repeat themselves.
Get your hearing tested before the party
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.