You arrive at your company’s yearly holiday party and you’re immediately assaulted 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.
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 extremely disorienting. How can this be fun for anyone? But then you look around and notice that you’re the only person that seems to be having difficulty.
This likely sounds familiar for individuals who suffer from hearing loss. The office holiday party can introduce some unique stressors and as a result, what should be a fun occasion is nothing more than a dour, 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.
Why holiday parties can be stressful
Even when you don’t have hearing loss, holiday parties are a unique mix 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 come with unique stressors.
First and foremost is the noise. Think about it like this: Holiday parties are your chance to loosen your tie and cut loose. In a setting like this, people have the tendency to talk at louder volumes and often 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, particularly for people who have hearing loss. That’s because:
- There are so many people talking simultaneously. It’s difficult to isolate one voice from many when you’re dealing with hearing loss.
- Lots of background noise, laughing, clinking dishes, music, and so on. Your brain can’t always get enough information to isolate voices.
- Indoor events tend to magnify the noise of crowds, meaning an indoor office party is even tougher on your ears when you have hearing loss.
This means anybody with hearing loss will have difficulty picking up and following conversations. This may not sound like a very big deal at first.
So… What is the big deal?
The big deal is in the professional and networking side of things. Office holiday parties, though they are surficially social events, a lot of networking takes place and connections are made. At any rate, attendance is often encouraged, so here we are. This means a couple of things:
- You can network: It’s not uncommon for individuals to network with co-workers from their own and other departments at these holiday parties. It’s a social event, but people will still talk shop, so it’s also a networking event. You can use this event to forge 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 individuals are hesitant to be the one that says “what?” constantly. This is one reason why hearing loss and isolation frequently go hand-in-hand. Even if you ask your friends and family to sometimes repeat themselves, it’s not the same with colleagues. They may mistake your hearing loss for incompetence. Your reputation may be damaged. So, instead, you may simply avoid interactions. No one enjoys feeling left out.
You may not even realize that you have hearing loss, which will make this an even bigger issue. 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 might be surprised that you’re having a hard time following the conversation. And you might be even more alarmed that you’re the only one.
Causes of hearing loss
So how does this take place? How do you develop hearing loss? Age and, or noise damage are the most common causes. Your ears will normally experience repeated damage from loud noise as you age. The fragile hairs in your ear that detect vibrations (called stereocilia) become compromised.
These little hairs won’t heal and can’t be repaired. And the more stereocilia that kick the bucket, the worse your hearing will be. In most cases, hearing loss like this is irreversible (so you’re better off safeguarding your hearing before the injury occurs).
Knowing all that, there are ways you can make your holiday office party a bit less unpleasant!
Tips to make your office party more fun
You’d rather not miss out on the fun and opportunities that are part of that office holiday party. So, when you’re in a loud setting, how can you hear better? 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 fuzzy, it’s a good bet you’ll be unable to communicate successfully. Simply put, steer clear of the alcohol. It’ll make the whole process much easier.
- Try to read lips: You will get better at this the more you practice. And you will probably never perfect this. But some gaps can be filled in using this technique.
- Look at faces: And maybe even spend some time hanging around people who have really expressive faces or hand gestures. The more context clues you can pick up, the more you can make up for any gaps.
- Take listening breaks: Every hour, take a 15 minute quiet break. By doing this, you can prevent yourself from becoming completely exhausted from straining to hear what’s going on.
- Find a less noisy place to talk with people: Try hanging out off to the side or around a corner. Sometimes, stationary objects can block a lot of sound and provide you with a slightly quiet(er) pocket, and you’ll be able to hear more clearly during loud background noise.
Of course, there’s an even more ideal solution: invest in a pair of hearing aids. These hearing aids can be customized to your hearing needs, and they can also be discrete. Even if you pick larger hearing aids it will still be better than asking people to repeat what they said.
Before the party, get your hearing checked
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!