Group of coworkers at office holiday party despite hearing loss

You arrive at your company’s annual holiday party and you’re instantly assaulted by noise. The din of shouted conversations, the clanging of glasses, and the pulsating beat of music are all mixing in your ears.

It makes you miserable.

You can’t hear anything in this noisy setting. You can’t follow conversations, you can’t hear the punch line of any joke, and you’re totally disoriented. How can this be enjoyable for anyone? But as the evening continues, you see that you’re the only person having trouble.

For individuals who suffer from hearing loss, this likely sounds familiar. Distinct stressors can be introduced at a holiday office party and for a person who is coping with hearing loss, that can make it a solitary, dark event. But have no fear! This little survival guide can help you make it through your next holiday party unharmed (and maybe even have some fun while you’re at it).

Why holiday parties can be stressful

Holiday parties can be a unique blend of fun and stress, (if you’re introverted this is especially true) even if your hearing is healthy. For individuals who have hearing loss or if you struggle to hear with loud background noise, holiday parties introduce some unique stressors.

The noise itself is the most prominent. Think about it like this: a holiday party is your team’s chance to let loose a bit. In an environment like this, individuals have the tendency to talk at louder volumes and often at the same time. Could alcohol be a factor here? Yes, yes it can. But even dry office parties can be a little on the unruly side.

For those who have hearing loss, this noise creates a certain amount of interference. Here are some reasons for this:

  • Office parties include tons of people all talking simultaneously. One of the symptoms of hearing loss is that it’s very difficult to pick out one voice among overlapping discussions.
  • Lots of background noise, laughing, clinking dishes, music, and so on. Your brain has a difficult time separating voices from all of this information.
  • Indoor events tend to magnify the noise of crowds, meaning an indoor office party is even tougher on your ears when you have hearing loss.

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 minor thing.

So… What is the big deal?

The big deal is the professional and networking aspect of things. Office holiday parties, even though they are surficially social events, a lot of networking occurs and connections are made. It’s usually highly encouraged to attend these events so we’ll probably be there. Here are a couple of things to think about:

  • You can network: Holiday parties are a great opportunity to network with employees from other departments or even meet up with co-workers in your own department. People will still talk shop, even though it’s a social event it’s also a networking occasion. This can be a fantastic chance to forge connections. But when you’re dealing with hearing loss the noise can be overpowering and it can become challenging to talk with anyone.
  • You can feel isolated: Who wants to be that person who’s constantly asking people to repeat what they said? This is one reason why hearing loss and solitude often go hand-in-hand. Even if you ask your family and friends to occasionally repeat themselves, it’s not the same with colleagues. They may mistake your hearing loss for incompetence. Your reputation could be damaged. So, instead, you may simply avoid interactions. No one enjoys feeling left out.

You might not even recognize that you have hearing loss, which will make this an even bigger problem. The inability to hear clearly in noisy environments (like restaurants or office parties) is often 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 when you notice you’re the only one, you might be even more alarmed.

Hearing loss causes

So what causes this? How does hearing loss happen? Age and, or noise damage are the most prevalent causes. Essentially, as you get older, your ears likely experience repeated damage as a result of loud noises. The fragile hairs in your ear that sense vibrations (called stereocilia) become damaged.

That damage is permanent. And your hearing will continue to get worse the more stereocilia that are damaged. In most cases, hearing loss like this is permanent (so you’re better off protecting your hearing before the injury occurs).

Knowing all that, there are ways you can make your holiday office party a bit less uncomfortable!

Tips to make your office party more pleasant

Your office party presents some significant opportunities (and fun!), so you really want to go. So, you’re thinking: how can I hear better in a noisy setting? Well, here are some tips to make your office party go a little smoother:

  • Take listening breaks: Take a 15 minute quiet break each hour. This will help prevent you from becoming completely exhausted after trying to listen really hard.
  • Refrain from drinking too many adult beverages: If your thoughts start 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 take it easy on the drinking.
  • Try to read lips: You will improve the more you practice. And you will most likely never perfect this. But reading lips may be able to help you fill in some of the gaps.
  • Look at faces: Try to spend time with people who have really expressive faces and hand gestures when they talk. You will be able to fill in comprehension gaps using these contextual signals.
  • Have conversations in quieter places: Try sitting off to the side or around a corner. Sometimes, stationary objects can neutralize a lot of noise and give you a slightly quiet(er) pocket, and you’ll be able to hear better during loud background noise.

Of course, the best possible option is also one of the easiest.: invest in a pair of hearing aids. Hearing aids can be subtle and tailored to your particular hearing needs. Even if you go with larger hearing aids it will still be better than asking people to repeat themselves.

Get your hearing checked before the party

That’s why, if possible, it’s a good idea to have your hearing checked before the office holiday party. You might not have been to a party since before COVID and you don’t want hearing loss to sneak up and surprise you.

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.