You’re bombarded by noise as soon as you get to the yearly company holiday party. You can feel the pumping music, the hum of shouted conversations, and the click of glasses.
It makes you miserable.
In such a loud environment, you can’t hear anything. You can’t follow conversations, you can’t hear the punch line of jokes, and you’re totally disoriented. How can anyone be having fun at this thing? But then you look around and see that you’re the only person that seems to be having trouble.
For individuals who suffer from hearing loss, this probably sounds familiar. Unique stressors can be introduced at a holiday office party and for someone with hearing loss, that can make it a lonely, dark event. But don’t worry! This little survival guide can help you make it through your next holiday party unharmed (and maybe even have some fun at the same time).
Holiday parties can be stressful, here’s why
Holiday parties can be a unique blend of fun and stress, (if you’re introverted this is particularly true) even if your hearing is healthy. If you struggle to hear when there’s a lot of background noise, holiday parties come with distinct 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. In a setting like this, individuals tend to talk at higher volumes and frequently all at once. Could alcohol be a factor here? absolutely. But it can also be quite loud at dry office parties.
Some interference is created by this, especially for individuals who have hearing loss. That’s because:
- Office parties feature tons of people all talking over each other. One of the symptoms of hearing loss is that it’s really difficult to identify one voice among overlapping discussions.
- Plenty of background noise, laughing, clanking dishes, music, and so on. Your brain doesn’t always get enough information to pick out voices.
- Indoor gatherings tend to magnify the noise of crowds, meaning an indoor office party is even tougher on your ears when you are dealing with hearing loss.
This means that picking up and following conversations will be challenging for people who have hearing loss. At first look, that might sound like a small thing.
So… What is the big deal?
The professional and networking aspect of things is where the big deal is. Office holiday parties, though they are supposed to be social gatherings, a lot of networking is done and connections are made. In any event, attendance is usually encouraged, so here we are. This means a couple of things:
- You can network: Holiday parties are the perfect chance to network with employees from other departments or even meet up with co-workers in your own section. It’s a social event, but work will be discussed, 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 overwhelming and it can be hard to talk with anyone.
- You can feel isolated: Who wants to be that person who’s always asking people to repeat what they said? This is one reason why hearing loss and solitude frequently go hand-in-hand. Asking family and friends to repeat themselves is one thing but co-workers are a different story. Perhaps you’re worried they will think you’re not competent. And that can damage your work reputation. So, instead, you might simply avoid interactions. No one enjoys feeling left out.
This can be even more troublesome because you may not even realize you have hearing loss. Typically, one of the first signs of hearing loss is the inability to hear in crowded settings (such as office parties or crowded restaurants).
You could be caught off guard when you begin to have difficulty following conversations. And when you notice you’re the only one, you may be even more alarmed.
Causes of hearing loss
So how does this occur? How does hearing loss happen? 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 (delicate hairs in your ears that sense vibrations) become compromised.
These little hairs won’t heal and can’t be repaired. And the more stereocilia that die, the worse your hearing becomes. In most cases, this type of hearing loss is irreversible (so you’re better off protecting your hearing before the damage occurs).
Armed with this knowledge, you can make that holiday party a little more pleasant in a few ways.
How to enjoy this year’s office party
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 smoother and more enjoyable with these tips:
- Take listening breaks: Every hour, take a 15 minute quiet break. This will help prevent you from getting totally exhausted after trying to listen really hard.
- Try to read lips: This can take a little practice (and good lighting). And it will never be perfect. But reading lips may be able to help you make up for some of the gaps.
- Have conversations in quieter spots: Try hanging out off to the side or around a corner. In some cases, stationary objects can neutralize a lot of sound and give you a slightly quiet(er) pocket, and you’ll be able to hear more clearly during loud background noise.
- Refrain from drinking too many adult beverages: Communication will be less effective as your thinking gets blurry. In other words, steer clear of the alcohol. It’ll make the whole process a lot smoother.
- Look at faces: And maybe even spend some time with people who have really expressive faces or hand gestures. You will be able to fill in information gaps using these contextual clues.
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 opt for larger hearing aids it will still be better than asking people to repeat themselves.
Get your hearing tested before the party
That’s why, if possible, it’s a smart idea to get your hearing assessed before the office holiday party. Because of COVID, this might be your first holiday party in several years, and you don’t want to be surprised by your hearing issues!