You’re bombarded 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.
You can’t hear anything in this noisy environment. You can’t keep up with conversations, you can’t hear the punch line of any joke, and you’re totally 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 difficulty.
For individuals who suffer from hearing loss, this probably sounds familiar. The office holiday party can introduce some unique stressors and as a result, what should be a jolly occasion is nothing more than a dark, lonely 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.
Why holiday parties can be stressful
Even when you don’t have hearing loss, holiday parties are a unique blend of stress and fun (particularly if you’re an introvert). For people who have hearing loss or if you struggle to hear with loud background noise, holiday parties provide 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 an environment like this, individuals have the tendency to talk at louder volumes and usually at the same time. Could alcohol be a component here? absolutely. But it can also be quite loud at dry office parties.
Some interference is produced by this, particularly for people who have hearing loss. That’s because:
- Office parties feature tons of people all talking over each other. One of the side effects of hearing loss is that it’s extremely hard to select one voice among overlapping discussions.
- Plenty of background noise, laughing, clinking dishes, music, and so on. Your brain can’t always get enough information to pick out voices.
- Indoor events tend to amplify the noise of crowds, meaning an indoor office party is even tougher on your ears when you have hearing loss.
This means anyone with hearing loss will experience difficulty picking up and following conversations. This may not sound like a big deal at first.
So… What is the big deal?
The big deal is in the professional and networking aspect of things. Although 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 consider:
- You can network: Holiday parties are the perfect chance to network with employees from other departments or even catch 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 good occasion to make connections. But it’s much harder when you’re dealing with hearing loss and can’t understand what’s happening because of the overpowering noise.
- You can feel isolated: Who wants to be that person who’s always asking people to repeat what they said? Isolation and hearing loss often go hand and hand because of this. Even if you ask your friends and family to sometimes repeat themselves, it’s different with co-workers. Maybe you’re concerned they will think you’re not competent. And that can harm your work reputation. So, instead, you may simply avoid interactions. You’ll feel excluded and left behind, and that’s not a great feeling for anyone!
You may not even recognize that you have hearing loss, which will make this an even bigger problem. The inability to hear well in noisy settings (such as restaurants or office parties) is usually one of those first signs of hearing loss.
As a result, you may be alarmed that you’re having a tough time following the conversation. And you might be even more alarmed that you’re the only one.
Hearing loss causes
So what causes this? How do you develop hearing loss? Typically, it’s due to age or noise damage (or age and noise damage). Your ears will typically take repeated damage from loud noise as you get older. The tiny hairs in your ear that sense vibrations (called stereocilia) become damaged.
These tiny hairs never heal and can’t be repaired. And the more stereocilia that kick the bucket, the worse your hearing will be. Your best bet will be to safeguard your hearing while you still have it because this kind of hearing loss is normally permanent.
Armed with this knowledge, you can make that holiday party a bit more pleasant in a few ways.
Tips to make your office party more pleasant
Your office party offers some considerable opportunities (and fun!), so you really want to go. So, when you’re in a noisy environment, how can you improve your ability to hear? Well, here are some tips to make your office party go a little better:
- 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 get, the more you can make up for any gaps.
- Keep the alcohol drinking to a minimum: If your thinking starts to get a little fuzzy, it’s a good bet you’ll be unable to communicate effectively. The whole thing will be much easier if you go easy on the drinking.
- Find a less noisy place to have those conversations: Maybe try sitting on a couch or around a corner. When the ambient noise gets really loud, sitting behind stationary objects can provide little pockets that are slightly less loud.
- Try to read lips: This can take a little practice (and good lighting). And it won’t ever be perfect. But reading lips may be able to help you fill in some of the gaps.
- Take listening breaks: Every hour, give yourself a 15 minute quiet break. This will help prevent you from getting totally exhausted after having to listen really hard.
Of course, the best possible solution is also one of the easiest.: invest in a pair of hearing aids. Hearing aids can be discrete and customized to your specific hearing needs. Even if you opt for larger hearing aids it will still be better than asking people to repeat what they said.
Get your hearing tested before the party
That’s why, if you can, it’s a good idea to have your hearing assessed before the office holiday party. You may not have been to a party since before COVID and you don’t want hearing loss to catch you off guard.