You arrive at your company’s annual holiday party and you’re immediately bombarded by noise. You can feel the pumping music, the hum of shouted conversations, and the click of glasses.
It makes you miserable.
You can’t hear a thing in this noisy environment. You can’t follow conversations, you can’t hear the punch line of jokes, and you’re totally disoriented. How can anybody be enjoying this thing? But then you look around and see 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 consequently, what should be a jolly affair is nothing more than a dark, lonely event. But don’t worry! You can get through the next holiday party without a problem with this little survival guide and perhaps you will even have a good time.
Holiday parties can be stressful, here’s why
Holiday parties are usually 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’s a lot of background noise, holiday parties come with unique stressors.
Most notable is the noise. Think about it in this way: Holiday parties are your chance to loosen your tie and cut loose. As a result, they are usually rather noisy events, with lots of people talking over each other all at once. Could alcohol be a component here? Yes, yes it can. But even dry office parties can be a little on the boisterous side.
Some interference is produced by this, particularly for people with hearing loss. Here are some reasons for this:
- There are so many people talking at the same time. It’s difficult to pick out one voice from many when you have hearing loss.
- Talking, music, clinking dishes, laughing, all in the background. Your brain doesn’t always get enough information to isolate voices.
- When you have hearing loss, indoor parties like office parties can make it even harder to hear because sound tends to become amplified.
This means anybody with hearing loss will experience trouble 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 networking and professional aspect of things. Office holiday parties, even though they are supposed to be social gatherings, a lot of networking is done and connections are made. It’s usually 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 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 occasion. This can be a fantastic opportunity to forge connections. But when you’re dealing with hearing loss the noise can be overwhelming and it can become challenging to talk with anyone.
- You can feel isolated: Most people are reluctant to be the one that says “what?” constantly. This is one reason why hearing loss and solitude frequently go hand-in-hand. Even if you ask your friends and family to sometimes repeat themselves, it’s not the same with co-workers. They might mistake your hearing loss for incompetence. Your reputation may be damaged. So, instead, you may simply avoid interactions. You’ll feel left out and left behind, and that’s not a fun feeling for anybody!
You might 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 (such as office parties or crowded restaurants).
As a result, you may be alarmed that you’re having a tough time following the conversation. And you might be even more surprised 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. Essentially, as you age, your ears most likely experience repeated injury as a consequence of loud noises. The stereocilia (delicate hairs in your ears that detect vibrations) become compromised.
These tiny hairs never heal and can’t be healed. And the more stereocilia that kick the bucket, the worse your hearing will be. Your best bet will be to protect your hearing while you still have it because this type of hearing loss is normally permanent.
With this knowledge, there are ways you can make your holiday office party a little less unpleasant!
How to enjoy this year’s office party
Your office party offers some considerable opportunities (and fun!), so you’d rather not skip out. So, you’re thinking: how can I improve my hearing in a noisy setting? You can make that office party smoother and more enjoyable using these tips:
- Take listening breaks: Every hour, take a 15 minute quiet break. This will help stop you from becoming totally exhausted after trying to listen really hard.
- Have conversations in quieter places: Try hanging out off to the side or around a corner. When the background noise gets too loud, sitting behind stationary objects can give you little pockets that are slightly less loud.
- Look at faces: And maybe even spend some time hanging around individuals who have really expressive faces or hand gestures. The more contextual clues you can pick up, the more you can make up for any gaps.
- Refrain from drinking too many adult beverages: Communication is less successful as your thinking gets blurry. The whole thing will be a lot easier if you take it easy on the drinking.
- Try to read lips: You will get better at this the more you practice. And it won’t ever be perfect. But some gaps can be filled in with this technique.
Of course, there’s an even more ideal solution: invest in a pair of hearing aids. Hearing aids can be discrete and customized to your particular hearing needs. Even if you pick larger hearing aids it will still be better than asking people to repeat themselves.
Before the party, get your hearing examined
That’s why, if possible, it’s a good idea to have your hearing tested before the office holiday 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 inability to hear!