In Spite Of Your Hearing Loss, You Can Get Through That Holiday Office Party

Group of coworkers at office holiday party despite hearing loss

You get to 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 environment. The punch lines of jokes are getting lost, you can’t hear conversations and it’s all very disorienting. How can anybody be having fun at this thing? But then you look around and see that you’re the only one that seems to be having difficulty.

For people 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 occasion is nothing more than a dark, lonely event. But have no fear! 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 mix of fun and stress, (if you’re introverted this is especially true) even if your hearing is healthy. For individuals 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 prevalent. To put it into perspective: 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 frequently at the same time. Could alcohol be a factor here? Yes, yes it can. But it can also be quite loud at dry office parties.

For those who have hearing loss, this noise generates a certain level of interference. That’s because:

  • There are so many people talking at the same time. One of the symptoms of hearing loss is that it’s very difficult to identify one voice from overlapping conversations.
  • Lots of background noise, laughing, clanking dishes, music, and so on. Your brain doesn’t always get enough information to isolate voices.
  • Indoor gatherings tend to amplify the noise of crowds, meaning an indoor office party is even harder on your ears when you have hearing loss.

This means that picking up and following conversations will be difficult for people with hearing loss. At first glimpse, that might sound like a small thing.

So… What is the big deal?

The big deal is in the networking and professional aspect of things. Although office holiday parties are social events in theory, they’re also professional events. At any rate, attendance is usually encouraged, so here we are. 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 section. It’s a social event, but work will be discussed, so it’s also a networking event. This can be an excellent chance to make connections. But when you have hearing loss the noise can be overwhelming and it can become challenging to talk with anyone.
  • You can feel isolated: Most individuals are hesitant to be the one that says “what?” all the time. Isolation and hearing loss frequently go hand and hand for this reason. Asking family and friends to repeat themselves is one thing but co-workers are a different story. Perhaps you’re concerned they will think you’re incompetent. And that can damage your work reputation. So maybe you just avoid interaction instead. No one enjoys feeling left out.

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

You could be caught off guard when you start to have trouble following conversations. And you may be even more surprised that you’re the only one.

Causes of hearing loss

So how does this occur? How does hearing loss happen? Typically, it’s caused by age or noise damage (or age and noise damage). Basically, as you age, your ears likely experience repeated damage as a consequence of loud noises. The tiny hairs in your ear that sense vibrations (called stereocilia) become damaged.

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

With this knowledge, there are ways you can make your holiday office party a little less uncomfortable!

Tips to make your office party more enjoyable

You don’t want to miss out on the fun and opportunities that are part of that office holiday party. So, you’re thinking: how can I hear better in a noisy environment? Well, here are a few tips to make your office party go a little smoother:

  • Keep the alcohol drinking to a minimum: Communication is less effective as your thinking gets blurry. The whole thing will be much easier if you take it easy on the drinking.
  • Take listening breaks: Every hour, give yourself a 15 minute quiet break. In this way, you can prevent yourself from becoming completely exhausted from struggling to hear what’s going on.
  • Look at faces: Try to spend time with people who have very expressive faces and hand gestures when they speak. The more context clues you can get, the more you can make up for any gaps.
  • Find a less noisy place to talk with people: Maybe try sitting on a couch or around a corner. Sometimes, stationary objects can neutralize a lot of sound and give you a slightly quiet(er) pocket, and you’ll be able to hear better during loud ambient noise.
  • Try to read lips: This can take some practice (and good lighting). And you will most likely never perfect this. But reading lips might be able to help you make up for some of the gaps.

Of course, there’s an even more ideal option: get yourself a pair of hearing aids. These hearing aids can be tailored to your hearing needs, and they can also be subtle. Even if your hearing aids aren’t small, you’d rather people notice your hearing aids than your hearing loss.

Get your hearing tested before the party

That’s why, if possible, it’s a good idea to get your hearing assessed before the office holiday party. Because of COVID, this may be your first holiday party in several years, and you don’t want to be surprised by your hearing issues!

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.