You get to your company’s annual holiday party and you’re instantly assaulted by noise. You can feel the pumping music, the hum of shouted conversations, and the clattering of glasses.
You’re not enjoying it at all.
You can’t hear a thing in this loud environment. You can’t follow conversations, you can’t hear the punch line of jokes, and you’re completely disoriented. How can this be fun for anyone? But then you look around and notice that you’re the only one that seems to be having trouble.
This likely sounds familiar for individuals who suffer from hearing loss. Unique stressors can be presented at a holiday office party and for someone who is coping with hearing loss, that can make it a solitary, dark event. But don’t worry! You can get through the next holiday party without difficulty with this little survival guide and perhaps you will even enjoy yourself.
Holiday parties can be stressful, here’s why
Holiday parties can be a unique combination 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 is a lot of background noise, holiday parties come with unique stressors.
The noise itself is the most prominent. Think about it in this way: a holiday party is your team’s chance to let loose a little. In a setting like this, people tend to talk at louder volumes and usually all at once. Could alcohol be a factor here? Yes, yes it can. But it can also be really loud at dry office parties.
Some interference is produced by this, especially for individuals who have hearing loss. That’s because:
- There are so many people talking simultaneously. One of the symptoms of hearing loss is that it’s really difficult to select one voice from overlapping conversations.
- Talking, music, clinking dishes, laughing, all in the background. Your brain can’t always get enough information to pick out voices.
- When you have hearing loss, indoor parties like office parties can make it even more difficult to hear because sound tends to become amplified.
This means that picking up and following conversations will be challenging for people who have hearing loss. At first glimpse, that may sound like a small thing.
So… What is the big deal?
The big deal is in the professional and networking side of things. Even though office holiday parties are social events in theory, they’re also professional events. It’s usually highly encouraged to go to these events so we’ll probably be there. Here are a couple of things to think about:
- You can network: It’s not uncommon for people to network with colleagues from their own and other departments at these holiday events. 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 when you have hearing loss the noise can be overwhelming and it can become hard to talk with anyone.
- You can feel isolated: Who wants to be that person who’s always asking people to repeat themselves? Isolation and hearing loss frequently go hand and hand for this reason. Even if you ask your family and friends to sometimes repeat themselves, it’s different with co-workers. They might mistake your hearing loss for incompetence. And that can damage your work reputation. So, instead, you may simply avoid interactions. You’ll feel excluded and left behind, and that’s not a fun feeling for anyone!
You might not even know that you have hearing loss, which will make this an even bigger problem. Typically, one of the first signs of hearing loss is the inability to hear in crowded settings (like office parties or crowded restaurants).
You could be caught by surprise when you start to have trouble following conversations. And when you observe you’re the only one, you might be even more concerned.
Hearing loss causes
So how does this take place? How does hearing loss happen? Age and, or noise damage are the most common causes. Essentially, as you get older, your ears most likely experience repeated damage due to loud noises. The stereocilia (fragile hairs in your ears that sense vibrations) become compromised.
These tiny hairs never heal and can’t be healed. And the more stereocilia that die, the worse your hearing becomes. Your best bet will be to safeguard your hearing while you still have it because this type of hearing loss is normally irreversible.
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
Your office party presents some significant opportunities (and fun!), so you’d rather not skip out. So, when you’re in a loud setting, how can you hear better? Well, here are some tips to make your office party go a little better:
- Try to read lips: This can take a little practice (and good lighting). And it will never be perfect. But some gaps can be filled in with this technique.
- Take listening breaks: Every hour, take a 15 minute quiet break. This will help prevent you from becoming completely exhausted after trying to listen really hard.
- Find a quieter place to have those conversations: Try hanging out off to the side or around a corner. Sometimes, stationary objects can block a lot of noise and provide you with a slightly quiet(er) pocket, and you’ll be able to hear more clearly during loud ambient noise.
- Keep the alcohol drinking to a minimum: If your thoughts start to get a little fuzzy, it’s likely you’ll be unable to communicate successfully. The whole thing will be much easier if you go easy on the drinking.
- Look at faces: And maybe even spend some time with individuals who have really expressive faces or hand gestures. The more context clues you can get, the more you can make up for any gaps.
Naturally, the best possible option is also one of the easiest.: get fitted for a pair of hearing aids. These hearing aids can be tailored to your hearing needs, and they can also be discrete. Even if your hearing aids aren’t small, you’d rather people notice your hearing aids than your hearing loss.
Before the party, get your hearing tested
That’s why, if possible, it’s a good idea to have your hearing checked before the office holiday party. Because of COVID, this might be your first holiday party in a few years, and you don’t want to be surprised by your inability to hear!