Group of coworkers at office holiday party despite hearing loss

You get to your company’s annual holiday party and you’re instantly bombarded by noise. The din of shouted conversations, the clanging of glasses, and the throbbing beat of music are all mixing in your ears.

It makes you miserable.

In such a noisy environment, you can’t hear a thing. The punch lines of jokes are getting lost, you can’t hear conversations and it’s all really disorienting. How can anybody be having fun at this thing? But as the evening goes on, you see that you’re the only one having trouble.

This likely sounds familiar for individuals who are dealing with hearing loss. The office holiday party can present some unique stressors and consequently, what should be a jolly affair is nothing more than a dour, lonely event. But don’t worry! You can make it through the next holiday party without difficulty with this little survival guide and maybe you will even enjoy yourself.

Holiday parties can be stressful, here’s why

Holiday parties can be a unique mix of fun and stress, (if you’re introverted this is particularly true) even if your hearing is healthy. For those with hearing loss or if you struggle to hear with loud background noise, holiday parties provide some unique stressors.

The noise itself is the most prominent. To put it into perspective: a holiday party is your team’s chance to let loose a little. As a result, they are usually rather noisy events, with everyone talking over each other all at the same time. Could alcohol be a factor here? absolutely. But it can also be quite loud at dry office parties.

For those who have hearing loss, this noise generates a certain degree of interference. 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.
  • Plenty of background noise, laughing, clinking dishes, music, and other noises. Your brain has a hard 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 anybody with hearing loss will experience difficulty hearing and following conversations. At first glance, that may sound like a small thing.

So… What is the big deal?

The professional and networking side of things is where the big deal is. Office holiday parties, even though they are surficially social gatherings, a lot of networking takes place and connections are made. In any event, attendance is usually encouraged, so here we are. Here are a couple of things to consider:

  • You can network: It isn’t uncommon for people to network with colleagues from their own and other departments at these holiday parties. Work will be discussed, even though it’s a social event it’s also a networking opportunity. You can use this event to forge new connections. But when you have hearing loss the noise can be overpowering and it can be hard to talk with anyone.
  • You can feel isolated: Most individuals are reluctant to be the one that says “what?” all the time. Isolation and hearing loss often go hand and hand because of this. Asking friends and family to repeat themselves is one thing but colleagues are a different story. They may mistake your hearing loss for incompetence. Your reputation may be compromised. So, instead, you may simply avoid interactions. No one enjoys feeling left out.

This can be even more problematic because you may not even realize you have hearing loss. Typically, one of the first indications of hearing loss is the inability to hear in crowded settings (like office parties or crowded restaurants).

You may be caught off guard when you begin to have difficulty following conversations. And you may be even more alarmed that you’re the only one.

Causes of hearing loss

So what causes this? How does hearing loss happen? Most commonly, it’s caused by age or noise damage (or age and noise damage). Your ears will usually take repeated injury from loud noise as you get older. The tiny hairs in your ear that sense vibrations (called stereocilia) become damaged.

That injury is permanent. And the more stereocilia that die, the worse your hearing will be. In most circumstances, hearing loss like this is permanent (so you’re better off protecting your hearing before the injury takes place).

Armed with this knowledge, you can make that holiday party a little more comfortable in a few ways.

Tips to make your office party more fun

Your office party presents some significant opportunities (and fun!), so you really want to go. So, when you’re in a noisy setting, 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: Try to spend time with individuals who have very expressive faces and hand gestures when they talk. The more context clues you can pick up, the more you can make up for any gaps.
  • Try to read lips: You will improve the more you practice. And you will probably never perfect this. But reading lips may be able to help you fill in some of the gaps.
  • Find a quieter place to talk with people: Try sitting 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.
  • Take listening breaks: Every hour, take a 15 minute quiet break. In this way, you can prevent yourself from becoming completely exhausted from straining to hear what’s going on.
  • Avoid drinking too many adult beverages: Communication will be less effective as your thinking gets fuzzy. The whole thing will be much easier if you take it easy on the drinking.

Of course, there’s an even more ideal option: get fitted for a set of hearing aids. These hearing aids can be customized to your hearing needs, and they can also be discrete. Even if you pick 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 possible, it’s a smart idea to get your hearing tested 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 hearing issues!

Call Today to Set Up an Appointment

The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.
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