You’re bombarded by noise as soon as you get to the yearly company holiday party. 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 make out conversations and it’s all really disorienting. How can anyone be having fun at this thing? But then you look around and see that you’re the only one that seems to be having trouble.
This most likely sounds familiar for people who are dealing with hearing loss. Distinct 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 difficulty 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 combination of stress and fun (especially if you’re an introvert). If you struggle to hear when there is a lot of background noise, holiday parties have 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. This means they are usually rather noisy events, with everyone talking over each other all at once. Alcohol can definitely play a part. But it can also be really loud at dry office parties.
Some interference is generated by this, especially for people with hearing loss. Here are some reasons for this:
- Office parties include tons of people all talking simultaneously. One of the side effects of hearing loss is that it’s very difficult to select one voice among overlapping discussions.
- Lots of background noise, laughing, clinking dishes, music, and other noises. Your brain has a difficult time separating voices from all of this information.
- When you have hearing loss, indoor parties such as office parties can make it even harder to hear because sound tends to become amplified.
This means that hearing and following conversations will be challenging for individuals who have hearing loss. At first glimpse, that might sound like a minor thing.
So… What is the big deal?
The big deal is the professional and networking aspect of things. Although office holiday parties are theoretically social events, they’re also professional events. It’s normally highly encouraged to attend these events so we’ll probably be there. This means a couple of things:
- You can network: Holiday parties are an ideal opportunity to network with employees from other departments or even meet up with co-workers in your own department. Work will be discussed, even though it’s a social event it’s also a networking opportunity. This can be a fantastic opportunity to make connections. But when you’re dealing with hearing loss the noise can be overpowering and it can become challenging to talk with anyone.
- You can feel isolated: Who wants to be that person who’s always asking people to repeat what they said? Isolation and hearing loss frequently go hand and hand for this reason. Even if you ask your friends and family to sometimes repeat themselves, it’s not the same with co-workers. They may mistake your hearing loss for incompetence. And that can damage your work reputation. So maybe you simply avoid interaction instead. No one enjoys feeling left out.
You may not even realize that you have hearing loss, which will make this an even bigger problem. 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 alarmed that you’re having a hard time following the conversation. And you may be even more alarmed that you’re the only one.
Hearing loss causes
So how does this take place? How do you develop hearing loss? Most commonly, it’s due to age or noise damage (or age and noise damage). Essentially, as you age, your ears likely experience repeated injury as a consequence of loud noises. The stereocilia (fragile hairs in your ears that detect vibrations) become compromised.
That injury is permanent. And your hearing will keep getting worse the more stereocilia that die. Your best bet will be to safeguard your hearing while you still have it because this type of hearing loss is usually irreversible.
Armed with this knowledge, you can make that holiday party a bit more enjoyable in a few ways.
Tips to make your office party more pleasant
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? You can make that office party better and more enjoyable with these tips:
- Look at faces: And maybe even spend some time with people who have really expressive faces or hand gestures. The more contextual clues you can get, the more you can make up for any gaps.
- Take listening breaks: Every hour, give yourself a 15 minute quiet break. In this way, you can prevent yourself from becoming totally exhausted from struggling to hear what’s going on.
- Avoid drinking too many adult beverages: If your thinking starts to get a little fuzzy, it’s likely you’ll be unable to communicate effectively. The whole thing will be much easier if you go easy on the drinking.
- Have conversations in quieter spots: Try sitting off to the side or around a corner. When the ambient noise gets too loud, sitting behind stationary objects can give you little pockets that are slightly quieter.
- Try to read lips: You will improve the more you practice. And it will never be perfect. But reading lips may be able to help you make up for some of the gaps.
Naturally, the best possible solution is also one of the simplest.: invest in a pair of hearing aids. These hearing aids can be personalized to your hearing needs, and they can also be subtle. 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
That’s why, if possible, it’s a good idea to get your hearing tested before the office holiday party. You may not have been to a party since before COVID and you don’t want hearing loss to sneak up and surprise you.